Prime Minister Hun Manet outlined details of his government’s first priority policy to a crowd of attentive expat Cambodians during their meeting in Melbourne, Australia. 

He told the assembled crowd – most of whom live in Australia and New Zealand – that around nine million Cambodians now enjoy access to free or heavily-subsidised healthcare.

Manet added that his government has earmarked about $100 million for the implementation of the policy.

He explained that the first priority policy aims to expand healthcare towards the provision of universal health coverage (UHC). At present, civil servants, members of the armed forces, and poor and vulnerable people can access state healthcare, as do a large number of self-employed people who are part of the “informal” economy.

“The policy is similar to the social security programmes that are provided in many developed countries, like the US. We have allocated around $100 million to introduce this scheme,” he told the March 3 gathering.

“The provision of healthcare coverage works on three levels. First, the state meets the full cost of healthcare for poor and vulnerable families. IDPoor equity cards have been issued to 490,000 households, enabling some 1.9 million people to access free healthcare,” he added.

The premier explained that a separate formula is applied to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), to which employees of the state and private companies contributed. Through this formula, both the government and employers also make contributions. 

“As of February 29, over 460,000 civil servants and nearly 1.5 million workers and employees [in the private sector] had become NSSF members, bringing total membership of the fund to over 2 million,” he said.

In addition, self-employed people can also join the NSSF. 

“They need to make just 15,600 riel in contributions each month. This is far less than the cost in Australia,” he said.

According to Manet, some 132,000 self-employed individuals have already made the choice to join the NSSF thus far, with coverage extending to the members of their immediate families.

“These figures are likely to grow as more and more people recognise the fundamental fact that this will benefit them and their families,” he stated.

“I would like to share the government’s pride that at least nine million Cambodians no longer need to worry [about medical bills] when falling ill, because the state will help them meet the costs of treatment,” he added.

Koy Vanny, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, backed the government’s policy, noting that implementing it remains a top priority for the ministry.

“This policy is crucial, in order to expand our healthcare infrastructure and facilitate excellent public health. Our final goal is to ensure universal healthcare for all Cambodians,” he said on March 4.

Nuth Sambath, president of the Institute of Medicine, Biology and Agriculture at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the allocation of a $100 million budget demonstrated the government’s commitment to its long-term vision of strengthening social services.

“The seventh-mandate government’s priority policies are excellent, and I believe we have the human and intellectual resources to carry them out. What is needed is sufficient funding for the necessary equipment and infrastructure, and it has been provided,” he added.