Pandemic law amendment discussed

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During its plenary session on June 24, Parliament discussed the draft amendment to the Law on Prevention and Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Reducing the Adverse Effects on Society and Economy.

The draft amendment was developed to establish a dedicated border administration responsible for integrated management and coordination of border control, border transport regulation, hygiene, security and coordination of work of local governments, and to extend the term of the law.

The government believes that in the future the situation of COVID-19 pandemic may adversely affect Mongolia’s national security, especially the health of the population, and socio-economic stability, leading to a serious economic crisis. They also believe that the government needs to be empowered to manage the health insurance fund in order to quickly address its inadequate performance.

In connection with the bill, some lawmakers expressed their views at the session. Legislator S.Odontuya said, “The pandemic law did not work. The health insurance fund must cover the cost of home treatment. Money for medicines and testing needs to be provided from the fund immediately. Moreover, the decree that was passed in violation of the law should be annulled. In other words, the law prohibits equipment purchase from the health insurance fund, but the decree has already been issued. This must be done in accordance with the law.”

Noting that the issue raised by S.Odontuya is right, Minister of Finance B.Javkhlan emphasized that this year, the Ministry of Health has a budget of 1.4 trillion MNT, and 200 billion MNT of this will be spent on equipment. The other 1.2 trillion MNT is in the health insurance fund. The fund must have a zero balance at the end of the year, so the ministry has to spend it all that year, the minister said.

“At the household level, the health insurance fund is used for treatment. The Family Group Practice provides home distance counseling and outpatient counseling, and the health insurance fund is responsible for the funding. This arrangement began last April. Only funding is delayed because it is issued based on performance. Therefore, the government needs to have the power to provide at least 580 billion MNT in advance for treatment. In general, we have to talk about budget amendments,” he added.

Parliamentarian Ts.Davaasuren said that the pandemic law violates the Constitution, which is why the law cannot be extended.

“Article 19.2 of the Constitution states that in the event of a state of emergency or war, the human rights enshrined in the Constitution can be restricted by law. But now the basic rights to travel, do business, earn money, get salary and obtain education are being violated. Or declare a state of emergency. The right to work, earn income and live must never be violated. Compensations must be paid. One law cannot be stopped by another. The pandemic law is convoluting the budget and finances,” he noted.

“As of today, there are 113 new cases of COVID-19 in Arkhangai Province. The middle and lower level hospitals are working at full capacity. This is the first case of a pandemic in the world. We would have had some experience if it had happened before. In this situation, it is necessary to amend certain laws and overcome the difficulties. The issue of responsibility will come later. The money from the health insurance fund, which is spent annually on drug price discount, outpatient care services, diagnosis and inpatient treatment, should be spent on the health. There is 1.2 trillion MNT in the fund. If we do not spend it on health, we will end up playing with the lives of our citizens. It is right to amend the law. Time will not wait for us,” lawmaker Yo.Baatarbileg said.

Deputy Prime Minister S.Amarsaikhan stressed that the minister of health and the health sector need to be empowered to manage the health insurance fund to provide timely emergency medical care to the public in accordance with the Law on Health Insurance Fund, and noted that it is an issue about not wasting time due to over funding.

Misheel Lkhasuren