People with disabilities will be happy to learn that effective June 2018, orthopedics and other specialized therapies will be covered by the community-based health insurance, commonly known as Mutuelle de santé.
Common procedures may include crutches, arthroplasty for knees, hips and shoulders, fractures, tendons and ligament repair, joint resurfacing, knee repair and reconstruction among others.
The move follows an agreement signed by Rwanda Social security Board (RSSB) and HVP Gatagara – the only Orthopedic Hospital with specialized therapies for persons with disabilities in the country.
HVP Gatagara has branches in different parts of the country.
Previously, Mutuelle de santé only covered medical services in government-owned or subsidised health facilities.
Due to the urgent need for specialised therapies, people living with disabilities have for years been appealing to government to extend its coverage to private health facilities that offer such services.
Dr Solange Hakiba, the deputy director general in charge of Benefits at the RSSB said that the new arrangement is expect to ease the burden on persons with disabilities and their families.
“Compared to other coverage we have, some of medical needs for persons with disabilities are a bit expensive but we understand that they really need these services,” Hakiba said.
However, for the start, not all services will be covered and Hakiba explained why.
“Due to limited budget, we started with orthopedics and physiotherapies coverage but we have plans to include prosthetics as well, depending on how our capacity increases,” she said.
The agreement signed with HVP Gatagara is valid for one year, renewable based on performance and is limited to services that are not available at government health facilities. The insurance facility also has a cap of Rwf100,000.
Kizito Misago, the director general of HVP Gatagara explained how his institution’s orthopedic centers will work with the insurance scheme.
“We will receive patients with medical transfers from districts or referral hospitals. Our doors are open. So far not many people have come in. It may be because the program is new. We need more sensitization,” he said.
Misago pointed out that they normally get about 20 people per day in need of orthopedic services, but some of them have private sponsorship or other medical covers different frommutuelle.
“Most of our clients are poor and artificial limbs are very expensive. We have been working with donors who sometimes pay for them but they can’t support everyone which leaves many affected people uncovered,” Misago added.
According the National Council of Persons with Disabilities, since the establishment of the council in 2008 they have been advocating for this and now that the government has taken action it is very good news.
“This is a good step for us. We had many members who could not live independent lives because they could not afford treatment,” Emmanuel Ndayisaba, NCPD Executive Secretary said.
Ndayisaba said that though the coverage does not include prosthetics (artificial limbs), or wheel chairs, they are glad for the first step, they believe that in the near future prosthetics will be included.
According to NCPD, a prosthesis costs between Rwf400,000 ($468) and Rwf800,000 ($936), while crutches cost between Rwf20,000 and Rwf40,000, depending on the category. A wheelchair goes up to Rwf250,000.
According to the ministry of local government, there are more than 160,000 people living with disabilities.