Dust is refusing to settle in the dispute between Blantyre Adventist Hospital (BAH) and the country’s medical insurance companies as the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) have now been dragged into the matter.
Effective February 1 2016, BAH cancelled existing contracts it had with the medical insurers and prepared new ones and increased its tariffs by an average 150 percent, among others.
It also claims that the medical insurance providers—which include Metropolitan Health, Horizon Health, Liberty Health and Medical Aid Society (Masm) which has more than 80 percent of the country’s private health insurance market share- owe it huge sums of money in medical bills that mostly covered the well-to-do and salaried people, an issue the companies are protesting.
But according to the medical insurers, BAH unilaterally drew up “non-negotiable” new contract.
RBM and CFTC confirmed in separate interviews that they have been absorbed in the dispute to help find an amicable solution.
“RBM only came in to mediate. Further, there is a provision within their agreements which calls for an independent mediator to arbitrate. So what is being done now is for an independent arbitrator to arbitrate, not RBM, and agree on the way forward,” said RBM spokesperson Mbane Ngwira.
He said the arbitrator would analyse the controversial issues and come up with a position which maybe accepted by the two parties.
On its part, CFTC said it invited BAH and the medical insurance companies to round table discussions to appreciate the contentious issues and try to find a solution to the dispute.
“During the dialogue, the commission was briefed on the underlying issues that led to the suspension of credit services at the hospital. The CFTC encouraged the parties to openly discuss the misunderstandings and reach a common understanding that would best protect the interests of consumers,” Lewis Kulisewa, CFTC director responsible for consumer welfare and education said in a questionnaire response.
He, however, said after the two parties underlined their commitment to dialogue and making an undertaking to return to the negotiating table this week after some internal consultations, BAH advised the commission that it had pulled out of the negotiations because “the hospital is not prepared to change its position on the underlying issues.”
When contacted for comment on its decision to pull out of the negotiations and stick to its position, BAH director Kirby Kasinja said he was in a meeting.
Meanwhile, medical insurers are reportedly consulting their legal counsels on the way forward on the matter.