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PNA free medical insurance suspended

Approvals of seven public departments required to prove jobless applicant qualification

Gulf News

Ramallah: The Palestinian government has agreed to continue dispensing free medical insurance for unemployed Palestinians, but imposed seemingly impossible requirements to obtain the insurance.

Following public outrage over the controversial suspension of the insurance programme that was set to take effect March 1, 2017, the Palestinian cabinet relented but introduced strict procedures to obtain a certificate stating unemployment.

Jobless Palestinians must get approval from seven different Palestinian ministries and departments clearly stating the applicant does not work at all and that no property is registered in his or her name, according to Hussain Al Foqaha’a, who heads the Ramallah branch of the Palestinian Trade and Laborers Unions.

As per a deal struck between the labour unions and syndicates and the Palestinian cabinet, a jobless Palestinian applicant must get approval and clearance from the Income Tax Department, the Properties Tax Department, the Ministry of Local Governance, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Health and the applicant’s city’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

Palestinians registered with a labour syndicate can purchase medical insurance for 600 Shekels ($160, Dh587) per year and the fee for the medical insurance can be paid at the Palestine Health Ministry in four instalments, said Al Foqaha’a. “This category of people can include jobless Palestinians, employees of the private sector, and labourers who work inside Israel without holding an official Israeli work permit,” he told Gulf News. “A membership in one of the labour syndicates costs 25 Shekels per year to qualify for this medical insurance.”

Palestinians who work in the public sector are insured by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Wealthy Palestinians must pay 960 Shekels per year for their medical insurance. Palestinian medical insurance allows for treatment in the public hospitals and secures outside medical transfers when needed.

The free insurance programme, locally known as “Al Intifada medical insurance”, was approved and instated by the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in 2000 at the beginning of the Second Palestinian Uprising.

Statistics recently released by the Palestinian Health Ministry show that 100,000 Palestinians qualified for the free medical insurance last year, bringing the total number of Palestinians who have benefited from this programme since its inception to 340,000.

Foqaha’a said the Palestinian cabinet and the various Palestinian public departments should consider the rising unemployment rate among the Palestinians when resolutions regarding the daily life of the Palestinians are debated. At least 450,000 Palestinians are jobless in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where unemployment among Palestinians is generally estimated at 30 per cent.