The launch of the Pakistan Tehreek i Insaaf’s (PTI) flagship universal health insurance (UHI) scheme in Punjab, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, Islamabad, and the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is being overshadowed by accusations of favouritism between different insurance companies vying for contracts.
Currently, the contract for the UHI program in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is with a public sector company called State Life Insurance Corporation. It is believed that the new contract will also be awarded to the same company, however, two private companies by the name of Adamjee Insurance Company and Jubliee Life Insurance Company have also been shortlisted.
Private competitors are accusing the government of being involved in rigging the contract process and that this entire fraudulent act is in favour of State Life Insurance Corporation. Furthermore, they believe that this will enable State Life Insurance Corporation to gain a monopoly over insurance companies across Pakistan. They are claiming that the program, which was launched to empower and provide healthcare to the most vulnerable segments of society, is actually a means to elevate the public sector insurance company. Private companies are pressurizing the government to divide Punjab into different zones and to give contracts of those zones to different insurance companies so they can also benefit from this scheme. They are of the opinion that this will stimulate healthy competition and therefore ensure quality services.
Reports also suggest that the government has been advised not to opt for a single company as it might compromise the quality of services. Nevertheless, the health ministry is adamant to give the contract to the same company as they are on a time crunch.
The Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) worth Rs100 billion targets free of cost health coverage up to Rs1 million a year to approximately 32 million families in Islamabad, Punjab, Gilgit Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir. The insurance covers health facilities in both private and public hospitals.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government has already successfully implemented the universal health coverage programme. The programme caters to around 6.5m families in the region and is worth Rs25-26bn. The programme will also be extended to the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Punjab government has reserved a total of Rs60bn to fund this programme. However, the cost of this initiative in the remaining regions will be incurred by the federal government of Pakistan.