June 16, 2016 / 11:31 AM / 3 years ago

Zimbabwe doctors say insurers owe 220 mln dollars, will now take cash only

HARARE (Reuters) - Doctors in Zimbabwe will no longer accept patients with medical insurance from July 1 due to insurers owing them $220 million, the main doctors’ association said on Thursday, leaving thousands to pay cash or rely on underfunded state hospitals.

Most doctors in Zimbabwe run private practices and some also put in hours at private and state hospitals. Government-run hospitals, used by the majority of Zimbabweans, often lack basic medicines and specialist doctors and are largely shunned by patients on health insurance.

The southern African nation has more than 20 registered health insurers serving about 800,000 members, according to the Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ), which represents health insurance firms.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA)accused AHFoZ of failing to pay or delaying payments to doctors, who were nonetheless forced to pay taxes on funds they had not received.

“As a result of the above, health insurance firms currently owe health services providers an estimated $220 million,” ZiMA said in the statement.

“From the 1st of July 2016 all privately practicing medical doctors will not be accepting health insurance (medical aid cards) from their patients until further notice.”

ZiMA president Agnes Mahomva would not say how many doctors would comply with ZiMA’s decision or the number of patients that would be affected.

An AFHoZ spokesperson declined to comment on Thursday.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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