Poorest Pakistanis offered low cost healthcare

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Asim Akhtar

2008-10-16

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Oct. 10 — With less than 20 percent of Pakistanis having any form of health care, the First Microfinance Insurance Agency is working with the Aga Khan Foundation and the Lahore-based microfinance agency Kashf to offer families health care they can afford.

When Shehnaz Baji was informed that she was required to sign up for a health insurance policy before being granted a microfinance loan by the Lahore-based Kashf Foundation, her initial thought was, “I don’t need it because my husband and I have been healthy all these years.”

Days later, however, her husband Riaz began to have breathing problems. He visited a local clinic, but showed no signs of improvement afterwards.

Shehnaz was relieved when her loan officer told her that her health insurance policy also covered her husband. She immediately called the 24/7 Medical Hotline set up in collaboration with First Micro Insurance Agency (FMiA), and arrangements were made for her husband to receive proper medical care. He was diagnosed with bilateral nasal polyps, an overgrowth of tissue in the nose glands, which required surgery.

Shehnaz said, “I would have never bought the insurance policy of my own accord had Kashf not compelled me to. I now truly realise the value of health insurance and am thankful to Kashf to have thought about us.”

FMiA has created pilot projects across Pakistan, which has allowed organisations like Kashf to offer affordable health care to more than 300,000 of its low income borrowers.

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