By Richard T. Baguma
When I was invited to the just concluded Symposium on Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage in Low and Middle Income Countries that took place in Kampala, essentially as a communication service provider, I thought to myself, well here is another collection of elite academicians in a five-star hotel talking away!
And you know why? Because with a dismal percentage of Ugandans and indeed Africans accessing healthcare from qualified health personnel, this talk of universal health coverage was pipe-dreaming!
However, my previous interaction with the team that steers the SPEED (Supporting Policy Engagement for Evidence-based Decisions) Project based at Makerere University School of Public Health which hosted the symposium made me think again. This team has exhibited consistent seriousness in engaging stakeholders only when they have concrete evidence to back up their policy recommendations.
And indeed, by the end of the three day symposium, I was pleasantly disabused of my skepticism (am a journalist largely trained to be a skeptic)!
Numerous presentations highlighting success stories of health insurance schemes within communities in and around Uganda as well as neighboring countries brought home the realization that perhaps we have let our communities down. This was further reinforced by the achievements realized by the national health insurance schemes of countries neighboring Uganda.
As stakeholders including the media, politicians, technocrats, civil society, development agencies, academia and any other conceivable elite category, we have spent so much time debating the form instead of concluding the substance of a national health insurance scheme.
In unison, we need to push, and push very hard any duty bearer delaying the legislation and operationalization of the national health insurance scheme. We must generate and sustain heat on any and all, individuals and institutions alike, to ensure that our health is insured. And thanks to the symposium, we now have evidence that this is possible.
Delaying, ignoring or even keeping quiet about our individual and collective right to insured health is akin to committing crime and sin. It is criminal and immoral.