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Low-Cost Health Insurance Soon Available in Senegal

2014-6-5
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

Low-cost health insurance is about to be available to students and informal sector employees in Senegal through a World Bank Program. Nearly two-thirds of all Senegalese are unable to get health insurance, many of these people fall into debt when they get sick or suffer an accident.

The World Bank Group's International Finance Cooperation is working with the International Center for Development & Research to provide the insurance. The bank says it plans to offer low-cost, private health insurance plans in Senegal as part of the area's first private co-pay program.

Tiphaine Crenn is an operations officer at the IFC. He says health insurance through private companies is very costly in the West African nation. He says about 65 percent of people in Senegal do not have any health care coverage.


FILE - A sick child in a Dakar hospital.

In Senegal, only civil service employees or workers at companies with more than 50 employees, are able to receive health care coverage. Mr. Crenn said this means many people take out loans to pay for the cost of health care. He says this can empty a family savings.

The IFC says that it will work with six private Senegalese insurance companies to share the costs of health risks. It says it will offer micro-healthcare products at well below normal costs.

Mr. Crenn said other health care plans can cost between $500 and $600 a year in Senegal, and are difficult to get. The IFC program will offer plans as low as $16 per year.

Although plans that include hospital visits will cost up to $60 per year. Students can get basic health care and pharmacy services if they get injured at school or on the way to school for just $3 per year.

In exchange for these yearly fees, people will receive a health card that requires them to make payments of equal to 20 percent of normal treatment or medication costs. Mr. Crenn says such a system could change the future of health care in Africa.

He said if the system really works, it could provide a lesson for West Africa. Mr. Crenn said the pilot program plans to target around 108,000 people during the first year in Dakar.

The program is expected to expand to Senegal's Thies and St. Louis areas. After that the program may be offered in neighboring countries.

And that's the VOA Learning English Economics Report. VOA's Jennifer Lazuta provided this report from Dakar. I'm Mario Ritter.