The military is open to the idea that civilians can be members of the Military Medical Insurance (MMI) scheme, Defense Minister, James Kabarebe, told Parliament last week.
As the minister responded to questions from the lower chamber on the bill establishing the scheme, he noted that beneficiaries do not necessarily have to be relatives of a member of the armed forces.
“There really is no problem. We accept that. If someone appreciates the services of MMI, they can also be members.”
According to the draft law, the main responsibilities of MMI include covering medical care to the army and others who may subscribe to it, only within Rwanda.
It will also set up health centres, pharmacies and laboratories, and establish relations with similar regional and international agencies.
Various lawmakers, including Dr. Ezechias Rwabuhihi and Suzanne Mukayijore, asked the minister about the prospects of MMI subscribers getting treatment from abroad.
Kabarebe said: “All Rwandan soldiers who have a medical condition that must be treated from abroad do go for treatment. There is an arrangement for this.”
He noted that a military referral board examines case by case, searches for the place [hospital], considers the costs involved and then recommends to the Ministry of Defence.
The ministry has a fund that receives contributions from the MMI and Zigama-CSS to finance the treatment.
Kabarebe, however, told MPs that because MMI gets its contributions from soldiers’ basic salary, its finances are dwindling as the cost of medical treatment, worldwide, goes up.
While appealing to MPs’ to advocate for the scheme to get government support, he highlighted that treatment from abroad is not a long term solution.
Kabarebe said: “It is not a sustainable solution that will solve our [future] medical problems. We are doing it for the short-term, in this period when we don’t have capacity, but in the long-term, we want to build strong capacity in the Rwanda Military Hospital, basing on the progress made so far.”
Kabarebe noted the progress in terms of training specialists, acquiring high-tech equipment, building infrastructure and modernising Kanombe Military Hospital, which is set to be renamed the Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH).