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UHC: FG To Continually Evaluate Health Insurance – Minister

The Minister of State for Health, Mr Ekumankama Nkama, says the Federal Government is committed to continual review of health insurance to enable it achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

He spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at the presentation of the “Dissemination of Research Findings on Patients’ Satisfaction with the Services Provided Under the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA)“.

The research was carried out by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) with sponsorship from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

Accoridng to Nkama, the Federal Ministry of Health has a vision to attain UHC for all Nigerian citizens so that all would have access to quality, safe and comprehensive health care service that was affordable, accessible and acceptable.

“A strategic and sure way  to achieve UCH in Nigeria is through social insurance which is operational as the NHIA.

“This initiative has undergone several reforms since its inception to increase coverage and improve the accountability framework.

“Government will continue to evaluate and improve this scheme until we attain the goal of ‘health for all in Nigeria”, he said.

He also said that constant and consistent monitoring and evaluation of performance in order to identify gaps for timely and appropriate intervention to improve access to essential and quality health services for Nigerians was important.

Commending the efforts of both organisations, he said that the complementary and collaborative efforts of the NMA and CIPE would go a long way in building synergy in strengthening the Nigerian healthcare system.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said that the ministry would give full support for the research findings to be patented.

Represented by Mr Bassey Mej, the Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister, Mamora said that the ministry had the mandate to coordinate research works from all research institutions in Nigeria .

He said that the initiative that birthed the research was important because it speaks to well documented, well worked on research products that link with the bottom line of service delivery in Nigeria, which was patient satisfaction.

“Loads of things government will want to delve into will be issues that are centred on the welfare and security of its citizens.

“So when the welfare in terms of health issues and health security issues are taken care of you have sound citizens and consequently a sound nation and happy people will indirectly transform to a happy nation.”

Also, the Country Director of CIPE, Mrs Omowumi Gbadamosi, said that provision of extensive healthcare infrastructure and effective health services could only happen through deliberate policy formulation and effective implementation with involvement of key stakeholders.

She said that a long history of poor health facilities and services has left majority of Nigerians with no option but to contend with reality of lack of access to reliable and affordable health services with the associated grave consequences.

“The need for targeted health system reform is urgently particular in the area of social health insurance if Nigeria is to enhance access to good health care and improve on UHC.

“This is the reason the report being inaugurated today seeks to provide understanding to the performance of NHIA, the challenges and key areas requiring significant reform.

“The new Act will require funding to be effective and sustainable and funding for the health scheme cannot be achieved without the trust and buy-in of the populace especially the private sector stakeholders”, she added.

The Lead Consultant in the research, Dr Innocent Ujah, said that out of pocket expenses for health care services in Nigeria was over 70 per cent, but that with broad health insurance cover, that should reduce expectedly.

According to him, in Europe and America, everyone who is insured is covered to up to about 90 per cent.

He, however, said that the findings of the report should be implemented through advocacy, information sharing and strategic engagement.

The research was carried out in Aba, Kano, Lagos and Onitsha.

It found that enrollees faced certain challenges such as long waiting times at all NHIA serving points, disengagement of children from the principal enrollee at the age of 18 years.

Others are that some drugs, especially expensive ones were not covered under the scheme and patients had to buy prescribed drugs outside the hospital and inherent bureaucracies of referral for secondary care among others.

It also said that on the administrative side, there was irregular and delayed payment of capitations to health facilities and unnecessary bureaucratic bottleneck which impedes enrollees’ easy migration from one health facility to another.

It, however, recommended that hospital pharmacies should be adequately stocked with all essential drugs for easy access of enrollees, irrespective of the cost.

Also, that monthly capitation should be reviewed in view of current economic challenges with possibility of exploring other sources of funds for coverage of services.

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