Rwanda Pensioners’ Association says pensioners who retired before 2003 are not being catered for by RSSB’s medical insurance scheme (formerly RAMA) for health cover.
The association argues that, while in service, they used to contribute money for medical care.
They say retirees suffer from serious diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure that are not covered by Mutuelle de Santé, yet they need proper treatment.
Seventy-seven-year-old Athanase Minani, a retired public servant, struggles to pay a medical bill of Rwf300,000 for treatment at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali.
Minani earns Rwf27,727 in monthly pension, money he says cannot even cover his weekly basic needs.
“King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, does not accept Mutuelle de Santé (a community-based health insurance scheme) to treat patients. Where can I get that money? I had to acquire a loan and now I’m still struggling to repay it,” he told The New Times on Monday.
Minani, from Gasabo District, worked for the Ministry of Education as a teacher and later as director of schools. He also worked for the local government. By the time he retired, in 1995, he was earning Rwf50,000 per month.
He says that, at the time, the remuneration was decent enough vis-a-vis the market prices and the value of the Dollar against the Rwanda Franc.
“We used it to satisfy our needs. A bottle of soda used to cost Rwf20, while an egg was Rwf2,” he recalls.
A kilogramme of Irish potato was about Rwf10.
“Now, if a kilogramme of Irish potato costs Rwf350, what do you think is the value of Rwf27,000 monthly pension that I get?” he asked.
“That money cannot be worth a week’s groceries,” he said.
As a public servant, he dedicated his life to serve the Government, so his welfare and healthcare should be taken care of, he said.
Minani said all retired public servants deserve health insurance.
“The country should contribute to our treatment and health insurance coverage should be accessed by all former public servants, not just some,” he said.
The Rwanda Pensioners’ Association (known by its French acronym ARR) says pensioners who retired before 2003 are not being catered for by RSSB’s medical insurance scheme (formerly RAMA) for health cover.
Yet, the association members argue, while they were still in service, they used to contribute money that was called ‘soins médicaux’ – a French term meaning “medical care”.
The pensioners argue that it is these fees that eventually constituted the basis for the establishment of RAMA.
“The elders (retirees) suffer from serious diseases necessitating proper treatment,” said the president of ARR, Modest Munyuzangabo, pointing to diseases like diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure that are not covered by Mutuelle de Santé.
Appeal to RSSB
Munyuzangabo appealed to RSSB to cover half of the money required for a pensioner to access health insurance under its scheme (7.5 per cent), while the beneficiary would also cover the remaining 7.5 per cent.
There are Ministerial Instructions of May 24, 2011 governing health insurance for elderly pensioners, which the pensioners’ association says should be respected.
Article 5 of the instructions, which talks about the rate and modalities of contribution, states that the contribution to the health insurance scheme under RSSB was put at 15 per cent of the retired monthly pension benefits and the pensioner will pay half while the remaining 7.5 per cent will be covered by RSSB.
However, RSSB director-general Jonathan Gatera told The New Times that any pensioner who wants to join health cover can apply for it because RSSB cannot hold a pensioner’s money without their consent.
“Those who retired after RAMA was established, it’s automatic as they normally have RAMA subscription cards when they were still workers. But, for those who retired before RAMA, they have to apply to join the scheme because we cannot force them as pension benefits are the asset of the retirees,” he said.
Mweanwhile, some of the pensioners earn about Rwf5,200 per month, which the association of the retirees says is very little.
In response, Gatera said that they would carry out an actuarial study – a study that will use mathematical and statistical methods – to see how pension increment can be made to respond to the current cost of living and that pension was likely to increase in July, 2017.
However, he did not elaborate on how much will be increased or which pensioner category will benefit from the move as that will be determined by the study.
Figures from RSSB indicate that, currently, 3,084 pensioners are covered for medical insurance while 14,547 are not.
Some of them, according to RSSB, have their own health insurance; others were not members of RAMA before retirement.