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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t preps new health plan

A woman receives fluids as she sits on a bed in a ward at a hospital in Phnom Penh this year
A woman receives fluids as she sits on a bed in a ward at a hospital in Phnom Penh this year. Heng Chivoan

Gov’t preps new health plan

Plans for a universal health care system will be included in the 10-year strategy to strengthen Cambodia’s social welfare, according to a government official, as a new report reveals almost three-quarters of Cambodians lack any legal health coverage.

The study, released this week by the International Labour Organization, states only 26.1 per cent of Cambodians are affiliated with a health system or scheme.

Meanwhile, 57 per cent of the Kingdom’s total health expenditure comes through its citizens’ own pockets, with the average amount spent per capita increasing annually by 12 per cent between 2007 and 2011, according to ILO’s study, titled Addressing the Global Health Crisis: Universal Health Protection Policies.

Vathana Sann, deputy secretary general of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, said although the council didn’t see eye-to-eye with ILO on the figures, it shared the organisation’s goal of extending health care coverage.

“At the moment, we have a targeted health system for the poor and near-poor, but as we move towards becoming a middle income country, we are also moving towards a more universal system,” Sann said.

He said his department was working with UNICEF on a cost action plan to advance Cambodia’s social protection system, including establishing a universal health care scheme funded by payments by non-poor Cambodians.

The scheme, similar to those that exist in most of the developed world, would be included in the 2015-2025 National Social Protection Strategy.

“We need an institutional, sustainable social health protection system like in most other countries around the world,” added Sok Kanha of the Department of Financial Planning and Health.

“The Health Equity Funds [HEF] are just a program, so eventually they will disappear,” she said of the funds that subsidise medical treatment for poor citizens through Cambodia’s ID Poor system.

Presently, according to Sann, the HEF program covered about 70 per cent of poor Cambodians. Meanwhile, Community Based Health Insurance was also available to those who didn’t qualify for the HEF program, particularly those working in the informal sector.

Workers in the private sector can register and contribute to the National Social Security Fund for health coverage.

Sann said he hoped a universal system would be in place by 2025, when Cambodia is officially set to become a middle-income country. “Now we just have to focus on filling the gaps and improve the coordination and quality of health care to increase the demand of people willing to pay for it.”

Friday is the UN’s Universal Health Coverage Day.

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