The Jakarta Post
The latest fatwa from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) declaring the national health insurance (JKN) program to be in violation of sharia law is deemed to be misguided, with officials saying that the public should not worry about the program being haram.
The MUI issued the edict during an open meeting in Tegal, Central Java, recently, saying that the way the program was run by the Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan) involved elements that were not consistent with sharia law, such as maisir (gambling) and riba (interest), both of which are
forbidden in Islam.
BPJS Kesehatan spokesman Irfan Humaidi maintained that the JKN program was following Islamic values, such as mutual cooperation (gotong royong), and thus could be considered as takaful (Islamic insurance).
'There are lots of sharia elements [in the program], one of them being that it is not for profit. If we have excess funds, then the money will not be ours, it will be used for the JKN participants,' he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The JKN, which aims to provide universal health care by 2019, has been lauded by many as it covers comprehensive benefits, from influenza to expensive medical procedures like open-heart surgery, dialysis and cancer therapies.
It is not uncommon to hear stories of patients being able to go through costly surgeries just by paying Rp 25,500 (US$1.89) per month to get health care services in third-class facilities, or Rp 42,500 and Rp 59,500 per month for second- and first-class facilities, respectively.
Despite the low premiums, some people decided to join the JKN program after they fell ill and stopped paying their premiums once they recovered. In May 2015, more than 2 million participants have fallen behind on their premium payments, contributing to the program's ongoing financial difficulties.
To discourage people from not paying, late-payers have to pay a fine of 2 percent of the total premiums before they can resume their membership in the JKN program.
The MUI considered the fine to be unlawful as it fell into the category of interest.
'But fines for late-payers is also applied in sharia banking with fixed fines, the same with the BPJS Kesehatan,' Irfan said.
BPJS Watch secretary-general Timboel Siregar said that the fines should not be thought of as interest, since they were not aimed at benefitting the BPJS Kesehatan.
'The 2 percent fine has to be applied or else the participants will continue shirking and lead to the BPJS Kesehatan not having any money to pay for medical bills,' he told the Post on Wednesday.
Timboel also pointed out that it was strange for the MUI to not declare the national pension scheme unlawful since it also used fines.
'I suspect there are some business owners in the private health insurance sector [within the MUI] who felt threatened by the JKN program and thus pushed for the issuance of the edict,' he said.
Following the edict issuance, the MUI demanded the government revamp the JKN system or establish a separate system based on sharia law.
House of Representatives Commission IX overseeing health said that it was up to the government to follow up on the demand by drafting a new regulation.
'After that, the House will make an assessment,' commission chairman Dede Yusuf said on Wednesday. 'The Commission IX is here to oversee the BPJS Kesehatan, not the MUI.'
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