Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Labour and Employment Ministry Md. Mujibul Huq MP underscored the national initiative of health insurance coverage for readymade garment workers and other sectors’ wage earners in collaboration with government and private entities. He asked public insurance companies to offer health insurance for low-income earners.
He came up with the call while addressing a virtual roundtable on “Health Insurance for RMG Workers in Bangladesh: Designing Policy and Management Structure” on Wednesday. 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 vernacular daily Prothom Alo conjointly arranged the roundtable.
HEU Director-General Dr. Md. Shahadat Hossain Mahamud, DG, HEU, said that 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.
BRAC Climate Change and Urban Development programmes director Dr. Md. Liakath Ali said the country should introduce health insurance for wage-earners and the RMG sector is ready to introduce it that 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.
Representatives of different organizations were also spoke in the roundtable. Facilitated by Prothom Alo’s assistant editor Firoz Choudhury, the roundtable was also addressed by Central Fund DG Dr Selina Akter, HEI Professor Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, HEU’s research director Dr Md Nurul Amin, ANM Saifuddin from BGMEA, Mohammad Hatem from BKMEA, Progoti Life Insurance CEO M Jalaul Azim, Gonosastha Kendra’s Dr Rejaul Huq, and Bangladesh Garments Workers’ League president Sirajul Alam Rony.
In the Keynote Dr. Syed Abdul Hamid said that different NGOs operate various pilot health insurance projects to safeguard RMG workers. Research found that participation in the health insurance eased heath care cost and increase productivity of RMG workers. 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. Therefore, the establishment of a social health insurance management unit in collaboration with all stakeholders including the government, factory owners and the workers.
The discussion also informed that a network involving HEU, IHE, BRAC, SNV and Ganashastho Kendro have been working for policy formulation and the establishment of the institutional infrastructure to the policy formulation levels.