Mutuelle users decry extra charges by Irembo

Patients wait for treatment at Muganza Health Centre in Rusizi District. Sam Ngendahimana.

Rwandans who pay for their Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI), known as Mutuelle de Santé, through Irembo have complained about the extra charges imposed on them by Irembo agents.

The extra charges, Irembo users argue, could derail government efforts to digitise public service as well as promote cashless payments.  

Run by Rwanda Online, the platform is part of the effort to digitise public service delivery in Rwanda.   

“The charges for medical insurance (mutuelle) are Rwf3000…when you pay through Irembo it adds (up) to Rwf4000. Why do we have the difference,” wrote Rogers Donne Kayibanda in a tweet where he also raised complaints of a breakdown in Irembo system.

This is not the first time the issue of extra charges on Irembo platforms is being raised.

In February this year, Paula Ingabire, the Minister for ICT and Innovation, said Irembo agents were increasing charges but only on additional services such as printing, which was helping them to offset the low commission on some services like payment for Mutuelle de Santé.

She, however, disclosed that plans were underway to increase the commission for the agents, although it was not clear whether the increase in commission would translate into extra charges for citizens.  

Hakiba Solange, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), admitted that they have in the past caught Irembo agents charging extra money for some services.

Damascene Mbano, an agent of Irembo at Gishushu in Kigali, said that he charges Rwf500 to clients who want to make declaration for mutuelle.

“This charge is to facilitate them to get a code for mutuelle payment” Mbano said.

Mbano said that apart from this, there are no extra charges.

Ivan Magwene, Communications Manager at Irembo, admitted to The New Times that cases of extra charges used to be there, but they have been handled accordingly.

“We discouraged that by having Irembo services tariffs posted in every agent’s shop. We also terminated contracts of those found guilty,” he said.

He, however, argued that the Rwf500 for declaration was reasonable.

Rulisa Alexis, the Head of CBHI at RSSB, told The New Times that no extra fees should be paid by Mutuelle de Santé users to receive services.

“It’s not allowed. Agents reported for charging extra fees are punished,” he said.

Rulisa also reminded the public that hospitals and health centres are not authorised to receive payment for Mutuelle de Santé.

“No community based health insurance official is allowed to receive Mutuelle payments. All transactions must pass through a banking system to avoid embezzlement.”

However, Emmanuel Sibomana, the in charge of CBHI at Kacyiru Hospital, says that it is possible to pay for Mutuelle de Santé insurance at the hospital.

 “We can help them make the payment using mobile money services. We do not use Irembo to pay here,” he said.

Some citizens opt for mobile money payment, which they say is more effective while others said that they’ve never encountered any problems with the Irembo system.   

“I use Irembo on my phone to pay not only health insurance but to make other payments as well. I haven’t had any problems with the service,” said Rouren Nsengimana.

RSSB says payment for Mutuelle de Santé can be done through other various platforms, among them, mobile money, mobicash as well as through SACCOs.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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