The government has reversed an abrupt policy change implemented without notice on Saturday night to exclude private healthcare providers from the state’s free health insurance scheme.
The government-owned Aasandha health insurance company had informed private hospitals and clinics of the decision in a late night circular while results from Saturday’s local council elections were being announced.
Agreements made with private healthcare providers were also dissolved after the National Social Protection Agency’s board instructed the Aasandha company to implement the policy change.
But in a statement on Monday, the president’s office insisted that it did not advise or instruct NPSA to restrict the insurance scheme to public hospitals.
NSPA’s board decided to stop covering inpatient, outpatient, laboratory and scanning services from private hospitals and clinics on Wednesday, but Saturday night’s circular was not issued based on “any recommendation of the government to be initiated at, or before, a specific date.”
“The government has now instructed NSPA to restore agreements with private health institutions. The government has also asked NSPA to discuss ways in which to resolve the expense issues in a manner that provides better value for the state,” the president’s office said.
The statement assured that services under Aasandha will continue.
Despite the assurance, the ADK hospital in Malé, the largest private hospital in the country, has said that the Aasandha company has yet to inform the hospital about the policy reversal.
“Moreover, the agreement made between this hospital and Aasandha Pvt Ltd was annulled by the abovementioned Aasandha circular,” the hospital said in a statement on Monday afternoon.
“Therefore, we regretfully state that the Aasandha service provided by this hospital has been suspended.”
It added that the service will be restored as soon as the agreement is renewed.
Before the policy reversal, the Senahiya military hospital operated by the welfare company of the Maldives National Defense Force had also announced that its services are no longer covered by Aasandha.
Services under the health insurance scheme were also available from 37 hospitals in Sri Lanka and India.
The decision to exclude the private sector from Aasandha coverage had sparked outrage with many linking it to the government’s loss in Saturday’s local council elections. The Aasandha company’s circular was sent to private hospitals and clinics via email around 11:30 pm on Saturday night.
The following day was declared a public holiday and government offices reopened on Monday.
The circular had noted that inpatient, outpatient, laboratory and scan services are available free of charge in public hospitals.
In its statement today, the president’s office said the functioning of the universal health insurance system has been identified as “untenable and, within the context of providing health insurance with more value for money, it has come to the notice of the government’s monitoring agencies that the amounts being spent on the service is not being deployed efficiently.”
The agencies also made recommendations based on global best practices, after which the government held discussions with NSPA, it added.
The Aasandha universal health insurance scheme was introduced in January 2012 during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed. It was expanded to ‘Unlimited Aasandha’ by President Abdulla Yameen in 2014.
The scheme initially provided coverage of up to MVR100,000 (US$6,485) annually for all Maldivian nationals with valid identity cards.