BEIRUT — The president of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (CGTL) warned that Lebanon’s National Social Security Fund could go bankrupt in light of rising costs for medicines covered by the public fund’s insurance policies, during a joint press conference with the head of the NSSF on Wednesday,.
Here’s what we know:
• The director-general of the NSSF, Mohammad Karaki, and CGTL President Bechara al-Asmar held a press conference on Wednesday to call for increased funding for the social security fund after the Health Ministry lifted some drug subsidies.
• In mid-July, the Health Ministry lifted subsidies on 2,000 drugs, saying the subsidy was no longer affordable for the central bank, causing their prices to rise.
• Karaki says 1,050 of those drugs are covered by NSSF insurance, which 1,600,000 Lebanese participate in. He says the costs to social security when customers use the insurance to purchase these drugs have increased 200–600 percent, and the NSSF needs additional funding to cover these rising costs.
• Asmar said the subsidies were lifted in a “random and unstudied manner” and accused central bank Gov. Riad Salameh of exerting pressure on the Health Ministry.
• The two appealed to authorities to find alternative methods of funding for the NSSF.
• Subsidies remain in place on medicines for chronic diseases and neurological disorders, as well as on infant formula and vaccines.
• Pharmacies have struggled with severe shortages of drugs. Members of the pharmacy owners association have been on strike since July 16 to pressure the Health Ministry and central bank to find a workable solution to the shortages.