HA NOI (VNS) — National Assembly (NA) deputies yesterday focused on discussions for whether health insurance should be mandatory for citizens and should cover the cost of treatment for child malnutrition.
The comments were made at the third working day of the NA's seventh session where legislators discussed draft amendments to the Law on Health Insurance. Many deputies agreed with the regulation that the insurance should be made compulsory in a bid to ensure better healthcare coverage.
Nguyen Thi Bich Nhiem from the northern province of Yen Bai, said that if health insurance wasn't compulsory, people facing higher health risks or diagnosed with deadly diseases and requiring long-term hospitalisation would need to have insurance. People who are healthy and wealthy, would not be willing to join the insurance scheme, she said.
"This causes an imbalance in the health insurance system and affects how sustainable the insurance policy would be," she said.
Nhiem also argued that making it compulsory to join health insurance would fulfill a humane purpose of caring for public health and having everyone share the responsibility.
She urged the Government to encourage the public to join health insurance, set aside financial fund for the scheme, provide ethical standards for medical staff and boost quality of diagnosing and treating patients.
She also pushed for better equipment and facilities at community medical centres and requested strict punishments for parties who failed to join the health insurance scheme.
Nhiem's position was supported by Nguyen Tien Sinh from the northern province of Hoa Binh, who said that the Government needed to simplify the procedures to join health insurance, issue health insurance cards and claim the insurance after medical consultations.
However, Ton Thi Ngoc Hanh from the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong expressed doubt over the possibility of a compulsory system, and said it was impossible to ask everyone to join the scheme when it was still battling problems.
"What we should do first to ensure equality is to solve the existing problems to do with medical check-ups and treatments and avoid people going directly to upper-level hospitals instead of their local medical units," she said.
Hanh also pushed for the addition of regulation that ensured insurance covered the cost of check-ups, consultations and treatments for children with malnutrition under six.
The suggestion drew support from Ha Thi Lan of northern province Bac Giang, who said that statistics indicated that one in every three children under five years old was malnourished and underweight.
The proportion equates to about 2.5 million children suffering from malnourishment, while a further 221,000 people were malnourished and underweight, she said, adding that Viet Nam was now ranked 13th highest in the world for the amount of malnourished children.
"This is an alarming problem which will leave the society with many consequences and burdens," she said.
"Preventing malnutrition and treating malnourished children are necessary and would benefit the country," she added.
Duong Trung Quoc from the southern province of Dong Nai backed the proposal, saying that the average height of Vietnamese people was lower than those in regional countries.
"Up to 30 per cent of grown-ups are bearing the consequences of a malnourished childhood," he said.
"Malnutrition is a disease that needs treatment," he said.
"It's unreasonable and insufficient when the health insurance does not cover treatment of malnutrition," he stressed.
At a press conference the same day, the Ministry of Health briefed reporters about changes in draft amendments to the Law on Health Insurance.
The draft version contained 27 amendments and supplements to update the regulations in accordance with the revised Constitution which was approved late last year.
Of the changes, a regulation making health insurance mandatory is considered one of the most important.
The ministry said that the regulation aimed to include all citizens in the system. At present there is no compulsion to join - and many wealthy ignore insurance.
However, by including all citizens and sharing their fees, much more equality is created.
The new law requires all family members to join the insurance scheme. The ministry said that the additional regulations would enhance procedures for registration.
The ministry said this would help avoid confusion with health insurance cards, making sure that not just unhealthy people joined.
The new amendments also provide for people in the military and public security to join the health insurance system. Previously, there was no compulsion.
Disadvantaged people will automatically be included in the scheme and their fees paid by the State.
The ministry argued that as the current law had no limits on the amount of medical services that could be provided, insurance payments could easily get out of control.
As a result, it said, the new law provides for a basic insurance package covering essential services for emergency aid, check-up, treatment and rehabilitation.
The draft amendments also carries regulations on the rates of insurance payouts, insurance for children under six and the allocation of health insurance.