Over 120,000 refugees living in the Islamic Republic of Iran have enrolled in the 3rd cycle of the Salamat health insurance scheme in record time. The Universal Public Health Insurance (UPHI) is a tripartite agreement between the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA) of the Ministry of Interior, the Iranian Heath Insurance Organization (IHIO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iran.
Through the good cooperation and services of over 500 Pishkhan Centres countrywide, refugees in Iran have been able to either extend their insurance booklets or newly enroll in the Salamat scheme to receive unparalleled health insurance coverage which includes hospitalisation, para-clinical and out-patient services at any public Ministry of Health (MoH) affiliated hospital.
Since the extension of the government-led UPHI scheme in February 2017 over 120,000 refugees in Iran enrolled in just three months. Of this number over 112,000 are extremely vulnerable refugees and more than 1,000 live with Special Diseases – all of whom are subsidized by UNHCR’s financial contribution to the government-led scheme.
Alongside a joint BAFIA-UNHCR public information campaign, Pishkhan centres as well as BAFIA, UNHCR and IHIO offices across the country have been displaying visibility signs including announcement posters and brochures to help spread the news that the Salamat scheme has been extended for another year. Digital technology including SMS and Telegram messages as well as radio broadcasting announcements have also helped spread the word within Afghan communities, encouraging refugees to approach their nearest Pishkhan centres.
Due to the increasing popularity of UPHI, Pishkhan centres have been receiving particularly high caseloads of refugees seeking to take advantage of the insurance scheme; some centres have experienced a footfall of 400 refugees or more per day.
Those Pishkhans with heavy caseloads have assigned staff members specifically to UPHI registration to help meet the high demand, and to ensure that refugees receive the most efficient services as possible.
As observed by regular monitoring visits by UNHCR and BAFIA, Pishkhan Centres throughout the country have been able to extend insurance booklets in just a 15-20 minute timeframe. Those refugees enrolling in the Salamat insurance for the first time experience an average enrollment time of just one hour, and receive their booklets on location.
Administratively, filing information of so many individuals has also required excellent organization on behalf of Pishkhan centres, which have adopted commendable and highly systematic archiving practices.
In addition, the UPHI briefings received by staff and delivered by their managers and IHIO have ensured that all staff are familiar with the enrollment process including the printing of new booklets. In the event of any complications in enrolling certain individuals or extending previous booklet-holders, referral cases are immediately communicated to IHIO in an effort to solve any issues on the spot if possible.
With Salamat insurance growing in popularity as well as refugees’ increased understanding of the benefits brought through health insurance, Pishkhan centres continue to provide invaluable support and high quality services to refugees in Iran.
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