Consultation and treatment sought at private healthcare providers will no longer be covered by the state’s free health insurance scheme after an abrupt policy change was implemented without notice on Saturday night.
The government-owned Aasandha health insurance company informed private hospitals and clinics of the decision in a late night circular. The ADK private hospital in Malé received the circular at 11:22 pm and announced that it would stop offering Aasandha services from Sunday onward.
The Aasandha company said the decision was made by the national social health insurance scheme board.
“The decision follows ongoing efforts to review the principles for implementing the Aasandha scheme,” reads the circular.
The circular noted that inpatient, outpatient, laboratory and scan services are available free of charge in public hospitals. Patients presently undergoing treatment at private hospitals and clinics will still be able to make payments through the Aasandha scheme, it added.
“From this date on, private hospitals have been de-empanelled with a decision to cancel their agreements. We also request [private hospitals] to send invoices within the coming 30 days,” the circular read.
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.
The Senahiya military hospital operated by the welfare company of the Maldives National Defense Force has also announced that its services are no longer covered by Aasandha.
The health insurance scheme will also no longer be available from 37 hospitals in Sri Lanka and India.
The abrupt policy shift has sparked outrage with many linking it to the government’s loss in Saturday’s local council elections. The Aasandha company’s circular was issued while the media was reporting results.
“No Aasandha? Revenge for not voting? You can wave the wand now, but for how long?” tweeted one social media user while another user suggested that “the decision to discontinue Aasandha to private sector made after 11pm proves it is related to local council election results.”
People voted against PresYameen. He lashes out by cutting Aasandha. This vote showed ppl refusing to give in to such belligerency.#LCE2017
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) May 7, 2017