Nationwide initiative a must: speakers
Introducing a national initiative regarding health insurance coverage for readymade garment workers and wage earners of other sectors, in collaboration with government and private entities, is crucial, said Md Mujibul Huq MP, chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Labour and Employment Ministry, yesterday.
He also asked the public insurance companies to offer health insurance for low-income earners.
The lawmaker was speaking at a virtual roundtable titled, "Health Insurance for RMG Workers in Bangladesh: Designing Policy and Management Structure".
It was organised by Health Economics Unit (HEU) of Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Institute of Health Economics (IHE) of Dhaka University, Brac, Netherland-based development organisation SNV and the Bangla daily Prothom Alo.
HEU director general Dr Md Shahadat Hossain Mahamud said the RMG sector already has a systematic and formal structure in collaboration with BGMEA, BKMEA, and Labour and Employment Ministry's Central Fund, which enables the sector to be the initiator of institutional health insurance policy for workers' wellbeing.
Other sectors' workers could be brought under health insurance in phases, he added.
Brac Climate Change and Urban Development programmes director Dr Md Liakath Ali said the country should introduce health insurance for wage-earners, adding that the RMG sector is ready to introduce it, which can be scaled up in other sectors after success in RMG.
Bangladesh Diabetic Association chairman AK Azad Khan suggested that health insurance should be tax-free.
In the Keynote, HEI Professor Dr Syed Abdul Hamid said different NGOs operate various pilot health insurance projects to safeguard RMG workers.
"Research found that participation in the health insurance eased healthcare cost and increase productivity of RMG workers," he said.
"Although most of the projects' timeline is at the end, no policy or management framework has been developed yet to advance the project or undertake permanent initiatives," he added.
Therefore, it is crucial to establish of a social health insurance management unit in collaboration with all stakeholders including the government, factory owners and the workers, he further added.
Central Fund DG Dr Selina Akter, HEU's research director Dr Md Nurul Amin, ANM Saifuddin from BGMEA, Mohammad Hatem from BKMEA, Progoti Life Insurance CEO M Jalaul Azim, Gonoshasthaya Kendra's Dr Rejaul Huq, and Bangladesh Garments Workers' League president Sirajul Alam Rony, among others, spoke at the roundtable, facilitated by Prothom Alo's assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.