Lebanon News

Future presents three draft laws for social services

MP Atef Majdalani speaks during a press conference at the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Future Movement MP Atef Majdalani said Monday that his party had presented Parliament with three draft laws seeking to grant all Lebanese access to health and social care.

Addressing a news conference in Parliament, Majdalani said that one of the draft laws would target around 2 million Lebanese who do not benefit from public health care.

If approved, the draft law would oblige these individuals to have a health card that guarantees free hospitalization services at any public hospital.

“A patient carrying this card can be admitted at any public hospital and doesn’t have to pay a dime,” said Majdalani, who heads Parliament’s Public Health, Labor and Social Affairs Committee. Currently, patients receiving treatment at public hospitals pay 5 percent of their bill.

In a private hospital, a patient with a health card would only pay 10 percent of the bill.

The card would also cover annual diagnosis tests at public hospitals, a general blood test, dialysis and medications for cancer and incurable diseases.

Around 45 percent of Lebanese, nearly 2 million, are not covered by public health insurance. The Health Ministry makes financial allocations to private hospitals to treat them, but the funds are limited and do not cover the treatment costs of all diseases and checkups. Many Lebanese are forced to make use of their connections with MPs and state officials in order to be admitted to a hospital at the expense of the Health Ministry. They are not entitled to any retirement benefits.

Majdalani said that every person carrying the health card would have to pay an annual subscription of LL150,000. Funds for the health care system would also be provided from the government’s budget.

A committee of six members with expertise in the field would be established under the Health Ministry to manage the system, according to the draft law.

Majdalani added that the cards would be produced by private companies, after the committee selects one following a tender bidding. The committee would monitor whether the patient was receiving required medical tests, among other things.

The committee would be subject to the oversight of the Court of Accounts and the Council of Civil Service.

Majdalani explained that currently 15 percent of the Lebanese, mostly members of the Army, Internal Security Forces and public sector employees, enjoy almost free public health care, along with retirement benefits.

Around 32 percent of the Lebanese benefit from the National Social Security Fund, which provides them with health care until retirement age.

Another 8 percent of Lebanese have private insurance. They do not enjoy any retirement benefits.

“We believe that people have the right to a healthy and decent life that the state should secure,” Majdalani said.

The second draft law, Majdalani said, would provide health care for Lebanese who no longer benefit from the NSSF because they had retired.

“The draft law will allow them to continue to enjoy public health care after retirement, until the end of their life,” he said.

If approved, a Lebanese benefiting from the stipulations of the draft law must be retired, be without paid work, be without coverage from another health care fund, be living in Lebanon and have previously benefitted from NSSF coverage for 20 years.

The family members would enjoy the same benefits even if the breadwinner died before retiring.

To fund this system, workers and employers would pay a subscription amounting to 1.5 percent of their income each month. Retired workers would pay 9 percent of the national minimum wage per month along with the government’s contribution.

Majdalani said the third draft law proposed by Future would establish an independent system to provide a pension plan for eligible Lebanese.

The draft law to provide health cards was presented to Parliament by Future Movement MPs in May and was referred to the caretaker government.

After the news conference, Future MPs in attendance signed the other two proposed draft laws before referring them to Parliament.

“We are going to hold meetings with representatives of the National Social Security Fund, the General Labor Confederation, leading private sector representatives, academicians, rivals and allies because this issue is in the interest of all,” Majdalani said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 03, 2013, on page 4.

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