N$713 to be fully vaccinated

Jemima Beukes
Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula has pleaded ignorance about an offer by the local medical aid industry to pay N$713 for each fully vaccinated member, and pay this money towards government’s Covid-19 programme.

This comes at a time when government has failed to account or provide a breakdown of the N$8.1 billion Covid-19 stimulus package. It is not clear exactly how much government has collected through the medical aid intervention, however, private medical aid funds in Namibia cover about 8% of the population, which represents roughly 200 000 citizens.

Shocking

Private medical aid members discovered in the past few weeks that they were billed for receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, which government claims is free of charge. Shangula last week repeatedly said he was not aware of this arrangement and that questions should be directed to the finance ministry. “Our job is to give vaccination free of charge. Those who were deducted can take it up with their medical aid. You may wish to enquire from ministry of finance as we don’t charge for this service,” he said. The minister, however, made a U-turn when Namibian Sun told him that the medical aid industry confirmed to have met with his ministry about this arrangement. “The discussion on medical aid contribution to the vaccination campaign was under the auspices of the ministry of finance. The health ministry only provides information on the number of medical aid members vaccinated to the ministry of finance. “The medical aid would give money to ministry of finance as their contribution to the national cause. There was never an agreement that this cost will be passed onto members. In fact, the initiative came from the medical aid,” he said.

Different tongues

Ironically, the health ministry’s executive director Ben Nangombe confirmed that there was indeed Cabinet approval for this particular medical aid fund contribution to vaccination efforts. For one dose, the contribution is N$356.84, while being fully vaccinated – or two doses – would see a contribution of N$713.68. An additional contribution of N$356.84 is granted for a booster jab. “The amount contributed goes into an account with ministry of finance to support the procurement of vaccines,” Nangombe said.

Namibia Medical Care (NMC) fund manager Ben Nandago said the industry met with the health ministry to discuss the vaccination campaign. “The NMC Board of trustees agreed to pay N$731 for each member who receives the vaccine. The indication on member statements is purely for auditing purposes as well as data collection. No member will pay for the vaccine and the cost thereof will not be deducted from the members day-to-day benefit,” he clarified. “The board of trustees felt due to the fact that Namibia is going through a pandemic and its serious economic effects, it has a social responsibility to assist the ministry of health and all NMC members.” NMC has also in the meantime received correspondence from the Namibian Association of Medical Aid Funds with details of members who received their vaccinations, for payment, as was agreed to at the beginning of the campaign.

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