National Insurance Programme step towards universal coverage: Saira

ISLAMABAD, Oct 4 (APP): Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar Tuesday said that Pakistan took a major step in realm of universal health coverage by launching the landmark National Health Insurance initiative.

She was addressing the World Health Organization regional meeting participated by 22 countries from South Asia, Middle East and North Africa in Cairo, Egypt, says a press release recieved here.

The insurance programme caters to the health needs of population living below the poverty line through provision of free of cost quality health services made available in both public and private sector.

The programme would cater to 10 million individuals in the first phase, all over Pakistan.

She said it was a unique model which can be adopted by countries of the region.

Families all over the country were being issued health cards through a highly transparent system, he added.

Thousands of patients have benefitted from treatment facilities including cardiac surgeries, cancer and other major diseases in the best private and government hospitals in
their districts.

“We are confident that the initiative in terms of its model and scale serves as an example that can be replicated in other countries of the region.”

The minister said that to address the challenge posed by the low patient to bed ratio in Pakistan, the government has embarked on a major infrastructure initiative to construct a number of new hospitals across the country which would add more than 12,000 beds to the existing pool.

She said health is a contributor to sustainable development and Pakistan is fully committed to achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Pakistan’s National Health Vision launched recently is fully aligned and in sync with the Sustainable Development Goals and Pakistan’s National Vision 2025.

The minister said Pakistan is fully cognizant of the global health implications of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR).

Under a comprehensive National AMR Containment policy, emphasis has been laid on the five strategic objectives of the WHO Global Action Plan for AMR. A national policy on AMR has been prepared and is ready for implementation.

The minister shared with ministers of other countries of the region that Pakistan is fighting the final battle against polio after a major turnaround was achieved by the country, winning appreciation of the Independent Monitoring Board and the Technical Advisory Group for Polio Eradication.

Pakistan has made tremendous progress in dealing with peculiar challenges including militancy, inaccessibility and negative propaganda that stood in the way of progress towards eradicating polio.

“With the strongest of commitment shown by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, we have been able to take difficult decisions resulting in dividends in terms of sharp reduction of polio cases containing the spread of the virus. We are well on our way to stopping polio virus transmission and every effort is
being made to overcome remaining challenges.”

The minister informed that Pakistan has increased taxes on cigarette packs and tobacco advertisements have been banned in print, electronic and outdoor media.

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Impact assessment exercise has been conducted in Pakistan which has found the programme to be compliant to the provisions of the convention.

Major reforms are being made to make affordable and quality drugs available to the masses. For the first time in Pakistan, a comprehensive and futuristic Drug Pricing Policy has been introduced, eliminating all discretionary powers and also allowing for reduction in drugs prices.

A transparent mechanism has been adopted to review prices of drugs which have become non-viable to market.

Under a major policy measure the production and availability of generic drugs is being encouraged to provide an affordable alternative to the low income groups.