The country’s main health insurance service provider, Medical Aid Society of Malawi (Masm), has raised its membership premiums by 15 percent effective July 1 this year.
In a circular to its members issued on Tuesday, Masm chief executive officer Sydney Chikoti said following the recent annual general meeting (AGM), the board approved the upward premiums adjustment necessary for sustainability of the society.
Following the 15 percent hike, Masm members under Very Important Persons (VIP) Scheme contribution has gone up from K28 000 to K32 000 per month, Executive Scheme is up from K14 000 to K16 000 while Econo-plan Scheme is up from K4 000 to K4 600.
Those on Executive Old (EXO) Scheme will pay a monthly subscription of K30 000 from K26 000 whereas those on VIP Old (VIO) saw price go up from K37 500 to K43 000.
The health insurance provider last year also raised the premiums by 25 percent for Executive Scheme, 35 percent for VIP and 10 percent for Econo-plan.
The statement this week indicated that the increased premiums will ensure members continued enjoyment of accrued benefits at all levels of membership.
In an interview, Chikoti urged members to understand that hospitals have been raising their service charges since last year; hence, the upward adjustment by Masm to ensure it continues with the no shortfalls policy and sustained benefits to members.
He said: “As indicated in the communication, the society has to sustain itself and the members expect it to continue surviving year on year. Service providers have been increasing the tariffs that if you go to hospitals, what they were charging last year is not the same as what is being charged today.
“So, we need to preserve the society so that it continues serving its members going forward. We are assuring our members that once we effect this adjustment, we will not do any adjustment until July 2020.”
Reacting to the development, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito described the premiums upward adjustment as unfair and a portrayal of Masm’s monopoly on the medical insurance scene.
He said Masm management was taking advantage of its loyal members.
Said Kapito: “I have seen the memo that has been released and it’s shocking because the increases have been quite very often. In fact, the benefits are being reduced every time Masm increases the premiums. I find it very disturbing.”
He urged members to challenge the upward adjustments.
“Masm cannot be passing on its inefficiencies to members,” said Kapito.
However Chikoti dismissed Kapito’s remarks, saying he does not know what it takes to manage a medical insurance service with diverse members amid other economic factors.
“We are not a monopoly at all as Cama is saying. We have other health insurance service providers on the market. Why don’t they come to engage us so they can understand issues?” he said.
Chikoti said the premiums‘ adjustment also factored in the projection of inflation for the next six to 12 months.
Despite the regular raising of premiums, last year Masm reported a K1 billion loss, which was blamed on members’ fraud committed by registering bloated claims or use of Masm membership subscription cards by non-members.
However, Tuesday’s statement indicates that the board noted some performance improvement of the society and the increase in premiums will bolster the performance leading to sustainability of the society.
As of last year Masm had a membership of about 130 000.