The new health insurance scheme saves Afghan refugee family that suffered severe burns after a house fire.
© UNHCR/Behnam Moharrek
When flames burst through the windows of the house of Ibrahim’s son in the middle of the night, he could only think of dragging his son, granddaughter and daughter-in-law out of fire. Shivering in cold, when the ambulances were driving through the alleys of Semnan Refugee Settlement, the only peace of mind for him was his newly acquired health insurance card.
“My granddaughter’s hands and face were burnt. I was helpless… My son’s right shoulder was burnt. I already have paid so much for transportation and for their special clothing but there was no way I could afford the hospital bill. I am just a simple worker”.
With burn wounds covering 20% of their bodies, the entire family was hospitalized for 19 nights in a specialized hospital 180 Kilometers away from their settlement. The explosion of a gas container kept close to a lantern caused not only severe burns to all three in the family but also brought about a 15-thousand-USD hospital bill.
Ibrahim was amongst the refugees who initially found the insurance premium (36.66 USD) high but when confronted with an unaffordable hospital bill, he was reassured that the insurance scheme is a good investment. The Universal Public Health Insurance (UPHI) scheme, also known as Salamat Health Insurance, covered all hospitalisation costs and Ibrahim only paid for the doctor’s visit and medicine.
Salamat Health Insurance makes it possible for refugees to benefit from a health insurance package for hospitalization, similar to that of Iranian nationals. The scheme became available upon an agreement between UNHCR, the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) of the Ministry of Interior, and the Iran Health Insurance Organisation (Salamat). Sivanka Dhanapala, UNHCR representative in Iran called the inclusion of the refugees in this Universal Health Insurance Scheme, “exemplary not only regionally but also globally”.
Ibrahim moved to Iran as a refugee 24 years ago and since then has been living in Semnan settlement, 220 Kilometres east of the capital, Tehran. With four sons and four daughters, it is nearly impossible for Ibrahim to afford unpredicted large bills. Such unexpected expenses not only severely affect their livelihood but will also force the family to deprioritise the university fees of Ibrahim’s son and also his daughter’s high school enrolment. With health insurance in hand, he will indeed have less anxiety over his family’s health and wellbeing.
There are approximately one million registered refugees living in Iran. Under the Salamat health insurance, 300.000 identified vulnerable refugees will be covered for six months by paying 9.12 USD per person and the scheme fully pays for the premium fees of refugees with special disease. Even non-vulnerables who pay a higher amount (36.66USD for six months), like Ibrahim’s family , are still very much grateful that the scheme exists as the incident and the unpredictable burden it put on their shoulders, signified the importance of being registered to Salamat health insurance.
“I had no idea that people with burn wounds need to wear special clothes or need so much care… I would become penniless without the insurance. I think it was a miracle”
says Ibrahim with a shaky voice.
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