FIVE MONTHS from now, the current financial year will end, and with it, the expiry of all Mutuelle de Santé cards for the year, but officials at the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) say ‘right now’ is actually the best time to start paying for next financial year’s cards.
Mutuelle de Santé, the country’s community-based health insurance (CBHI), is the most common health insurance for Rwandans, covering at least 9.6 million people, especially those living in rural areas with meagre income.
It is paid for at any time but its validity ends with the financial year for which the subscription has been made, which means that users have to pay at the end of every financial year to keep their cards valid.
But in line with avoiding long queues associated with last-minute subscription, and for purposes of early planning for both users and RSSB, officials say campaigns for citizens to pay for the Financial Year 2017/18 will start early this year.
Déogratias Ntigurirwa, division manager for CBHI mobilisation and registration at RSSB, told The New Times, last week, that those who can afford to pay for the insurance at the moment should do it without having to wait for June.
“Our experience from last year is that wasting time on long queues trying to pay the fees at the last minute is bad for service delivery. Those who have the money now should pay as soon as possible; it’s the way to go,” he said.
Mutuelle premiums are paid depending on household Ubudehe categories (social stratification), with people from households in category 1 considered as indigents whose fees are paid by the Government, at Rwf2,000 per household member, while households in category 2 and 3 pay Rwf3,000.
Households in category 4, about 0.5 per cent of the country’s population, pay Rwf7,000 per family member.
Ntigurirwa said that in line with fast-tracking the subscription service, people whose premiums are paid by the Government will receive their Mutuelle cards for the next fiscal year as early as possible, before June.
That will leave the mobilisation campaign focused on those who have to pay for themselves and they occupy the biggest percentage, at more than 80 per cent of the population going, by the latest Ubudehe social stratification approved by the Government last year.
“We will set up a two-month deadline to pick up Mutuelle cards for those in the first category whose funds are paid by the government,” Ntigurirwa said.
“Those who will pay for themselves also need to pay as early as possible because the more they delay, the more they lose out because the cards lose value at the same day, on July 30, regardless of when the fee was collected.”
Bertin Nyamwasa, from Gasabo District, who ekes a living as a commercial motorcyclist, agrees that paying Mutuelle premiums late in the financial year amounts to losing money.
“I don’t think it was a good deal when I paid for mine last month because I will be able to use it for only six months,” Nyamwasa said, adding that he has planned to pay the next fees as early as June in order to fully use his Mutuelle card in the next fiscal year.
The father of five said paying subscription fees is not easy because he has to pay Rwf21,000 every year for his family of seven that includes five children, himself and his wife.
“I will pay as early as possible this year. I always prefer to get the Mutuelle issue out of the way as early as possible whenever I can,” he said.
RSSB took over the management of Mutuelle de Santé from districts in July 2015 as part of a solution to a dip in subscriptions to the scheme and poor management of its funds.
The flaws had led to debts and poor service delivery to subscribers because they couldn’t access services such as the medicine they needed from hospitals and pharmacies in the country.
The agency, which registered 82 per cent of the targeted users for the scheme in the current fiscal year, has pledged to make the plan more attractive by improving its financial management, which is critical in the running of the fund, and paying hospitals and pharmacies on time.