Bank Refah, SSO Sign MoU

Bank Refah, SSO Sign MoUBank Refah, SSO Sign MoU

The ministries of health along with labor/cooperatives/social affairs, the Social Security Organization (SSO) and Bank Refah Kargaran (workers’ welfare bank), signed a MoU recently on financing healthcare services.  

Better known as Bank Refah, it is one of Iran’s major lenders. It is owned and controlled by the SSO, the primary social insurer in the country which covers wage-earners and the salaried class as well as the self-employed.

At the signing ceremony, Labor Minister Ali Rabiee, said, “We are regularly looking for new ways to provide financial resources for implementation of the nationwide Health Reform Plan launched in April 2014,” IRNA reported.

Pointing to the issue of unpaid receipts to the Health Ministry’s hospitals by insurance organizations, he said the future payments should be made by using banking resources and lending facilities, and banks should coordinate the transactions between hospitals and insurance firms.

“According to the MoU, from now on, state-run hospitals should send their expenditure receipts to the banks, and the latter will pay 60% of the amount through the insurance organizations within two weeks. The remaining 40% will be paid after more scrutiny,” Rabiee said.

On the payment of past dues, he said the debts until May 2015 have been cleared by insurance organizations.

Insurance organizations will clear all the dues by September 2016 and the funds will be reimbursed to the hospitals through banks. Once the backlog is cleared, it will facilitate and accelerate payment of hospital costs and expenditures.

Health Minister Seyed Hassan Hashemi said according to the MoU, the SSO can use Refah resources to reimburse its bills owed to state-run  hospitals.

Health insurance is a significant tool in medical care as it finances healthcare and helps provide equal access to health services for the people. But the tug-of-war between hospitals and insurance organizations has imposed extra burden on the patients, often causing financial losses and infringing upon their rights.

A non-government organization, the SSO is solely financed by insurance premium contributions (7% by employees, 20–23% by the employer and 3% by the government). At present, more than 40 million people in Iran are under SSO coverage.

The SSO also owns several large industries and companies and over the years has emerged as an economic conglomerate with immense power and influence. Reports not far back said it was the “richest organization in Iran.” However, in recent years the SSO has been accused of wrongdoing, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, mainly during the two terms of  former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that ended in the summer of 2013.