By ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH, Lagos
Stakeholders in the health sector have called on the federal government to review the law setting up the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in order to improve health insurance penetration in the country.
Investigation by LEADERSHIP Friday showed that with health insurance Premium as low as N15, 000, less than 10 percent both from the public and formal sector out of the 180 million Nigerians, have one insurance package. Stakeholders who spoke with our correspondent attributed the low penetration to the law that set up the scheme, adding that the law needs to be reviewed if all Nigerians must have access to adequate health care services in the country.
The chairman, Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN), Dr. Tunde Ladele urged the federal government to set up the governing council in order to stabilize, properly regulate and expand the growth of health insurance in Nigeria.
Ladele said it was the duty of the council to make decisions and to give directives on the day-to-day running of the NHIS through the Executive Secretary.
For the managing director, Ultimate Health Management Services, Lekan Ewenla, the law needs to be reviewed in order to expand the coverage of health insurance to include more people from the informal sector.
Ewenla said, “If you look at the public sector scheme for the federal civil servants, the population of Nigeria that are covered by the scheme is below five percent and if you look at five percent of the entire population, it is very low.
“I can also tell you that even the coverage in the organized private sector is still very low. So, an average of about 8 to 10 percent of the population of Nigerians is covered, which is nothing when compared to the huge population of the country. The law that set up the scheme needs to be reviewed to make health insurance compulsory for all Nigerians.
“Also, the states in Nigeria are not fully engaged. It is clear that healthcare is on the concurrent list on the Nigerian constitution, but the state governments need to completely eliminate playing politics with healthcare, as the only way to make healthcare affordable and accessible is through health insurance scheme.”
Going forward, he advocated that the law that set up the scheme needs to be replicated at the state level so that the 36 states in Nigeria can key into the programme.
This, he said will make HMOs to freely enter into the various communities in Nigeria and begin to promote health insurance at the grassroots level.
As to what the HMOs are doing to ensure that more Nigerians are enrolled into the scheme, Ewenla said the HMOs have been in the business of ensuring that more Nigerians have adequate healthcare before the advent of the public sector scheme.
Judging by the law establishing the scheme, he said the HMOs are saddled with the responsibility of up-taking the scheme.
He said, “HMOs, having been in the industry for about 20 years with their rich intellectual capacity in health insurance, have developed several health care packages to grow and expand health insurance in Nigeria.
“Within the years, we have developed health insurance products for the private sector which we have been able to market to various organizations. It is the HMOs that develop the Tertiary Institutions Social Health Insurance Programme for all tertiary institutions across the country. We did this to ensure that the population of Nigeria between the ages of 18 to 25 can key into the scheme.
“The HMOs have also developed a programme called Voluntary Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme to enrol those in the informal sector into the health insurance scheme because from records, the bucks of Nigerians are in the informal sector.
“As for those living in the rural areas, we have been able to classify this set of people into groups. What we did was to embark on rapid assessment survey to determine the economic indices of the communities where they are based, we looked at their source of income and with the help of their association, we have been able to develop a customized health insurance package, that would not create holes in their pocket and that give them access to quality health care.”
In the same vein, the CEO, Avon HMO, Mrs Adesimbo Ukiri said Avon HMO recently launched Avon HMO Online services to improve penetration, adding that the company’s task is to ensure that Nigerians from all walks of life have access to good quality healthcare services when they need it without suffering undue financial hardship.
Ukiri said, “With Health plans starting as low as N15, 000 per year, Avon HMO has indeed brought quality healthcare services to the average Nigerian. Subscription to an Avon HMO plan means that whenever ill health or accident occurs, the state of one’s finances won’t matter as Avon HMO oversees the healthcare service delivery and foots the bill. By giving people the ability to buy and subscribe online via mobile phones and other devices, we are bringing convenient and affordable healthcare services to everyone.”