Ivory Coast launches mobile enrolment centres for universal health coverage

Ivory Coast this month launched mobile enrolment centres for the country’s universal health coverage programme, which has been criticised since its inception in 2019 over difficulties in accessing benefits.Samuel Touffet, who came to the mobile centre to get updated on coverage under the programme, is dissapointed

“I’m not too happy with the card. There are so many pharmacies where if we go with the card, it doesn’t work. ….Also, when we go to the hospital with the card, they say it doesn’t work. So we don’t know what this card is even worth.”

Bruno Agnissan already has a Universal health card , but came to a mobile enrolment centre in Abidjan to find information on how it could be used but he is also uncertified.

“When we went to the pharmacy and I presented the voucher, the pharmacy said that ‘no, this is only for civil servants.’ That it won’t work for us individuals. ….

He says that treating his son for a simple case of malaria became a struggle under the programme, as the hospital ran out of one of the medicines needed for the treatment.

He was told to find the medicine at a local pharmacy and given a voucher that should have covered the cost, but says he was unable to find a pharmacy that would accept the voucher

Despite the issues facing the programme, Health Minister Pierre Dimba hopes that it can become a basic insurance that covers every Ivorian citizen, with private insurance used only as a supplement.

“We are currently considering the possibility of making this card usable in private establishments. And ultimately, it’s a unique platform of health coverage that we will have in our country, that if you are privately insured, you will be on the same platform as the universal health coverage, which will be the basic insurance. Other insurance will be just complementary, like in the great countries that we all know.”

The universal health coverage, known locally by its French acronym CMU, is meant to cover 70% of people’s healthcare costs for 1,000 West African CFA francs ($1.65).

The mobile enrolment centres sign up individuals and families and print cards onsite, so recipients can start receiving care immediately at hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies nationwide.

Authorities said the centres would be able to reach those who cannot get to traditional enrolment centres because of the nature of their jobs, with many working long hours in the informal sector.

While the government remains positive, only 40% of the population is registered in a programme that has been heavily criticised by Ivorians as ineffective.