New Health Care Plan to Cover Workers

A comprehensive health care plan for formally employed workers is set to be rolled out by the government’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF), with members covered for all illnesses, according to a sub-decree released on Wednesday and signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Though light on details, including when the plan will be implemented, the sub-decree states that the NSSF will also cover wages lost on work days missed due to sickness. Employees will be required to make a monthly contribution to the scheme, it says.

“This health care package is designed to benefit employees via treatment and consultations. It is a great benefit to the workers because at the moment the NSSF only provides them with [accident] insurance,” said Chiev Bunrith, a spokes- man for the fund.

Mr. Bunrith said more than 1 million workers at some 8,000 enterprises were currently registered with the NSSF, at a premium of 0.8 percent of their monthly salaries, which is paid by employers and the government.

The sub-decree states that workers themselves will be required to pay a premium for the health care package, though it offers no figures, saying only that workers will pay “not more than employers.”

“On the 21st of this month, the NSSF, employers, employees and the government will hold a meeting to discuss what contributions [workers will be required to make] toward health care,” Mr. Bunrith said.

“The employees will need to make a contribution, but it is the employers who will make the greatest contribution,” he said.

Unionists and labor advocates on Wednesday applauded the initiative, which they described as long overdue, but said they worried about how much workers would be made to contribute, particularly in sectors of the economy in which the workers earn hand-to-mouth wages, such as the multibillion-dollar garment industry.

“The government has to think about how much money garment workers have to spare to pay toward [health care],” said Yaing Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, suggesting that workers should be required to pay no more than 30 percent of whatever premium is decided on.

“The employer can invest in their employees by paying for this. For them, it’s not a big deal,” she said.

Pav Sina, head of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said he had participated in multiparty meetings to discuss the heath care plan, and predicted that the NSSF would require premiums equal to 1 percent of base wages.

“Before, workers would pay $10 to $20 if they got ill. One percent is a small amount for full coverage but the employers should be responsible for 80 to 90 percent of that,” he said.

Moeun Tola, a prominent labor advocate who last week launched his own rights organization, Central, described the health care plan as “a great move by the government” but warned of potential difficulties in carrying it out effectively.

“One question is how would the quality of the NSSF service be,” he said, noting that injured workers routinely received substandard care under the existing NSSF scheme.

“Workers complain that when they show the NSSF card at the hospital, doctors don’t seem to care enough about them,” he said.

“Hospitals also complain that the NSSF is slow to process [payments], so maybe that is a reason” NSSF members receive poor treatment.

(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)

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