GOVERNMENT has committed to settle its debt to Premier Service Medical Aid (PSMAS), running into millions of dollars, but its failure to pay the health insurer could jeopardise access to health services for hundreds of thousands of civil servants.
Business Weekly understands that healthcare providers are contemplating withdrawing services to PSMAS card holders over either failure to pay or delays in paying medical aid subscriptions.
However, while Government has reportedly “housed” the legacy debt to PSMAS, until it secures sufficient resources to expunge the liabilities, it has continued to accrue fresh liability.
Since PSMAS, like every other medical organisation, meets its obligations to service providers from the contributions made by the employers, it has struggled to consistently pay in full.
It is believed Government owes PSMAS about US$120 million, although at some point outstanding debt had reached US$300 million; and this was during the multi-currency era.
This comes amid growing concern over potential sector wide crisis, as most healthcare providers are now demanding co-payments from clients, in addition to medical aid cards.
Some doctors have also warmed they may stop accepting medical aid cards for health services, in the wake of rising inflation, which is eroding the value of money as they await payment.
Zimbabwe’s annual inflation has raced from 5,39 percent in September last year to 175,66 in June, largely driven by pass through effects of exchange rate movements on the black market.
Civil servants constitute the majority of the over 800 000 members of Zimbabwe’s biggest health insurer, of which Government pays 80 percent of the contribution of each employee, while the worker foots the balance deducted from the member’s salary.
“One medical aid which has become very problematic, is PSMAS; the situation with PSMAS is very dire and service providers are almost at a point where they may start rejecting PSMAS medical aid cards because they have not paid us since October last year,” a service provider (medical doctor) who requested anonymity said.
The source said this comes after Government ‘locked’ its debt to the medical insurer, but committed to settle the liabilities once the financial resources became available.
However, the huge chunk of the debt relates to the period 2014 to 2016. Between 2017 and October 2018, Government reportedly met most of its obligations to PSMAS, enabling it to pay creditors, but has reportedly not been able to consistently do the same since then.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, said he was acutely aware of the issues blighting PSMAS, but referred further questions to Treasury, saying they were seized with the matter.
“We are aware of the challenges at PSMAS, but the best person to talk to is George Guvamatanga, he has the full story, they are seized with the matter as we speak,” he said.
No comment on the issue could, however, be obtained from Guvamatanga, who was said to be attending business meetings in Bulawayo, by the time of going to print yesterday.
However, PSMAS managing director Tendai Kapumha said Government had made the commitment that it will settle its debts to PSMAS over the next 12 to 18 months.
Kapumha said while the issue of resources constrained PSMAS’ ability to meet its obligations, service providers should realise that this was a matter of mutual interest and should be patient.
He said once Treasury started releasing the funds, PSMAS would be in a position to clear all its debts.