The Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) could win its argument to regulate all medical aid societies in Zimbabwe as it is backed by Sadc protocol that entails all medical aid funders to be superintended by insurance regulatory authorities.
Zimbabwe has already ratified the Sadc protocol.
According to IPEC insurance and micro-insurance manager Munyaradzi Machinjika, the insurance regulator wants to exercise regulatory authority over medical societies only as per global best practice.
“There is a legally binding Sadc harmonisation protocol where it was agreed that medical aid societies must be supervised by insurance regulatory authorities. This was done on July, 30 2009 by the Sadc Ministers responsible for Finance and Investment under the Committee of Insurance, Securities and Non-Banking Financial Authorities of Sadc (CISNA),” he said.
Regionally, countries where medical aid societies are regulated by the insurance regulator include Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, while Zambia is in the process of moving medical aid societies to the Pensions and Insurance Authority in line with the CISNA resolution.
South Africa has, in recent times, been the regulation of medical insurance to its Financial Services Board.
IPEC’s move to extend its oversight to medical aid societies, could be hindered by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (already regulating medical aid societies), which is pushing for the promulgation of the Medical Aid Regulatory Bill.
Among other things the bill seeks to establish a new regulator for medical aid societies. The new regulator will, however, remain under the control of the ministry.
And players in the sector have reservations about the proposed new entity.
Some observers have highlighted that the composition of the proposed regulatory authority in terms of the proposed Medical Aid Societies Bill is more of a ‘representative council’.
“The members of the proposed authority include interested players; hence it won’t be an independent regulator since there will be conflict of interest.
“Medical aid societies regulation does not require medical practitioners or any of the people identified thereof but the technical expertise such as actuaries, economists, legal practitioners, information communication technology experts and personnel with risk management background,” said one analyst who preferred anonymity.
Doctors’ representative body, the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA), says the new regulatory entity would be “compromised.”
“The need for a regulator is really there, because at times when the Minister (of Health and Child Care) has gazetted a tariff, medical aid societies have simply disregarded them,” said ZiMA board member Dr Christopher Samkange at a ZiMA-organised workshop earlier this week.
ZiMA national treasurer a Dr Sacrifice Chirisa, said IPEC would be a better option when it comes to regulating medical aid societies.
“The Ministry does not have the experience for regulation of the financial aspects of medical aid societies. IPEC does have some experience, ideally they can get a partial mandate,” he said.
Machinjika said collaboration with the Ministry was a possibility.
“IPEC wishes to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Child Care in the oversight role over Medical Aid Societies through efficient prudential supervision of medical insurance funds. Just like the practices the world over, the regulation and supervision of service providers such as doctors, hospitals and surgeries must remain the prerogative of the Ministry of Health because IPEC neither has the capacity nor competency in that respect.
“Similar precedence on IPEC co-regulation with other line ministries in Zimbabwe are numerous. For instance, IPEC regulates funeral assurance but funeral service providers are regulated by the Ministry of Local Government and or subjected to municipal by-laws.”