0601 GMT June 26, 2022
The Iranian Parliament has stressed that if the administration phases out the foreign currency subsidy allocated for medicine imports, it will have to simultaneously develop the required insurance infrastructure in an effort to prevent pressure on patients, said an MP.
The remarks were made in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily by Homayoun Sameyah Najafabadi, the representative of the Jewish community in Parliament and a member of the legislative body’s Health and Treatment Committee.
He added that since March 2021, extensive discussions have been held on the elimination of the drug imports’ subsidy granted to importers in the form of cheap foreign currency resources, and the possible consequent hikes in prices.
The former administration, under ex-president Hassan Rouhani, refrained from cutting the subsidy, the MP said.
It has also been discussed in Parliament that medicine prices should return to what they were in September 2021, he noted, adding that eventually, in the current Iranian calendar year, which started on March 21, 2022, the government emphasized that the subsidy must be cut.
The lawmaker regretted that, at present, domestic insurance companies are incapable of covering the high medicine prices, saying, currently, the Social Security Organization, for instance, is lagging behind by eight months in terms of making its payments to the medical centers with which it has contracts, such as clinics and pharmacies.
“This is due to problems resulting from the insurance budget in the country.”
For the current year, Parliament approved a 56 percent rise in laborers’ salaries, which could, per se, help increase insurance companies’ incomes enabling them to be of greater assistance to their clients in covering drug costs, Najafabadi said.
He added, however, the measure failed to produce the desired outcome as, when employers discovered the rise in laborers’ salaries, they began laying off their staff before the beginning of the Iranian new year.
This forced the insurance companies to pay unemployment insurance to the dismissed workers based on the tariffs for the Iranian year to March 2022 and, thus, sustain losses, the MP said.
Finally, the government has decided to continue allocating cheap foreign currency resources to medicine imports until late January 2023, and prevent hikes in prices, a decision which has caused problems for domestic pharma firms as their equipment has become worn-out, thus, raising their production costs, he noted.
Najafabadi said this comes as these firms’ incomes have remained at last year’s levels, raising the possibility of their closure due to financial problems.
He added that his committee has approved a percentage for the rise in drug prices, which has not been approved by the government yet.
Turning to people’s satisfaction with the domestic health sector’s services in the previous year, the lawmaker said as patients had to pay between 70 percent and 80 percent of their health and treatment costs, with the rest covered by insurance companies, naturally their satisfaction rate had dropped.
He also warned against increased immigration by Iranian medical staff to European and Persian Gulf littoral states.
Commenting on required measures to prevent a potential spread of monkeypox virus in the country, the MP said vaccination is the sole way.