As part of a long-planned project to overhaul the country’s social security system, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed into law yesterday a sub-decree effectively granting health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers.
The sub-decree expands the mandate of the National Social Security Fund – which operates under the Labour Ministry and provides obligatory workplace injury insurance – to providing health insurance as well.
Established in 2008, the NSSF covers more than 900,000 Cambodian workers, most of whom work in the garment sector.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the new requirement was the second of three main steps in the government’s plan for social security, which began with injury insurance and would culminate in a new pension regime slated for 2017. “It will help workers a lot; when they have an illness, they will not worry so much over fees,” he said.
Employers currently cover all of the costs for the NSSF’s injury insurance, which amounts to 0.8 per cent of a worker’s salary every month.
Medical insurance, however, is to be funded by both employers and employees, although details of the exact share have yet to be ironed out, said NSSF deputy executive director Sum Sophorn.
“We will provide insurance for all kinds of illness … the sub-decree mandated the policy but doesn’t show yet how much will be paid,” he said.
A voluntary health insurance pilot scheme started in September 2014 has more than 8,000 workers enrolled across 11 factories and sees costs split 60/40 between employers and employees.
Ken Loo, spokesman for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said such details would likely be released soon given the announcement of the policy. “We will have to wait to see what is the [employers’] contribution rate, whether it is reasonable or not.”
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, welcomed the new policy but said hospitals and clinics needed to be ready to accept it.
“If we work and work but do not implement, what benefit will there be?”
About 60 per cent of Cambodia’s $1 billion in medical costs in 2014 were paid out-of-pocket, according to a study published last June by the World Health Organization, helping push tens of thousands into extreme poverty.
Chan Sros, a 32-year-old garment factory worker in Kampong Speu province, said she suffered from poor health but had little money to cover hospital fees.
“I hope that health insurance will help workers that have illnesses in the future,” she said. “Everyone gets sick at least once.”