A new company has been awarded a contract with the U.N. to manage health coverage for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the agency announced Tuesday. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has signed a partnership with Dubai-based third party administrator NEXtCARE to manage its financial and medical audit of coverage for the 1.01 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
NEXtCARE won the contract following a bid in December 2016. The company will replace the previous provider, the Saudi based Medivisa, that was contracted in 2015.
“The selection of NEXtCARE Lebanon is purely based on the outcome of the competitive bidding process that determined them as the company submitting the most suitable and responsive offer to meet UNHCR’s requirements and is unrelated to the performance of Medivisa,” Lisa Abu Khaled, spokesperson for the agency, told The Daily Star.
UNHCR’s financial contribution for secondary and tertiary hospital care covers 75 percent of the total bill. Refugees who are identified as meeting UNHCR vulnerability criteria are entitled to 100 percent coverage for secondary and tertiary health care.
Refugees and aid providers will have to dial a new number – 01-504-020 – to contact the company’s 24/7 multilingual call center when accessing health care services. Similarly to Medivisa, NEXtCARE’s hotline will also refer refugees to the nearest hospital and respond to requests for urgent hospitalization.
“NEXtCARE [will be] covering a wide network list, which definitely enhances the service level for refugees,” Jihad Flayhan, General Manager at NEXtCARE in Lebanon, told The Daily Star.
Third party administrators are also responsible for contracting private and public hospitals throughout the country for referral to the agency’s beneficiaries. Syrian refugees only receive UNHCR financial assistance if they are treated in one of the contracted hospitals.
The work of administrators is at the core of the UNHCR’s mandate, which states that the agency is responsible for facilitating and advocating for the access of the refugee population to existing services and health care providers.
“The partnership between UNHCR and NEXtCARE is critical to ensuring access to essential high-quality healthcare services for refugees in Lebanon in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible,” Michael Woodman, Senior Public Health Officer at the Beirut office of the UNHCR, said in a statement.
The contracted companies are also responsible for agreeing upon standardized fees with private and public hospitals in order to guarantee maximum cost optimization.
As a consequence of the ongoing violence in Syria and the destruction of its public infrastructure, many refugees arrive in Lebanon requiring medical attention. U.N. agencies have been facing funding shortages, which make cost-effective services provision a priority.
According to data released by the UNHCR, pregnancy and child birth accounted for over 40 percent of the agency’s global medical expenditures in 2015.