Peru banks criticize new health insurance rule

LIMA, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Peru’s banks say a new rule tucked into the country’s universal healthcare law would slow their growth by requiring everyone applying for a loan to show they have health insurance.

Asbanc, the country’s association of banks, has come out against the rule, along with Finance Minister Ismael Benavides and banking regulator SBS.

President Alan Garcia has defended the policy, along with Health Minister Oscar Ugarte, who has said it is a way to ensure that all Peruvians pay into the healthcare system.

Garcia’s office is working with Congress to implement the new legislation, which was passed last year with broad support and suffered little in the way of the acrimonious debate that bogged down healthcare reform in the United States.

The complaints from Asbanc are unlikely to derail the new system, and both sides have said they will try to reach an agreement.

“Universal healthcare is clearly a desirable goal, but so is financial intermediation, which in the case of Peru is still very low and is clearly recognized as an important component that creates more inclusive development,” Asbanc said in a statement on Wednesday.

Only about 25 percent of Peru’s 29 million people have bank accounts.

Garcia said he did not believe the rule would cause a problem for banks.

“Having healthcare is necessary and should be like having a national ID card. Nobody gives you a loan if you don’t show your ID, and loans won’t be given if you’d don’t show proof of health insurance,” he said, according to the El Comercio newspaper. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes and Terry Wade; Editing by Leslie Adler)