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Between NHIS and Buhari’s promise

Posted: Apr 10, 2015 at 5:03 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ifeanyi Alia


It is really not a bad idea for Nigerians to ruminate on the promise of “change” which president-elect, Retired General Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) have since foisted on the national psyche. As a matter of fact, sceptics and cynics say the word “change” just like outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan’s “Transformation Agenda”, appears quite omnibus, opaque and nebulous, however, that is not to suggest that the drafters of the APC manifesto did not know what they mean by the promises embedded in the “change” portfolio.

For the benefit of doubt, the in-coming government has promised to make the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) much more affordable and available to the majority of the masses of our people. The Buhari government said with just N5,000, individuals and their families would enjoy effective and efficient health care delivery for a whole year. Before now, the NHIS’s premium is N15,000 and it is limited to the treatment of some illnesses not all, as chronic diseases are largely uncovered by the scheme.

Stakeholders in the nation’s health sector have indeed expressed their minds on how to increase health care delivery across the country. Ravished and ravaged by poverty, Nigeria has almost become a cementary where several citizens die and are buried due to negligence, abject poverty and inability to afford huge hospital bills. Indeed, there is a glimmer of hope. Some health administrators and organizations have been upbeat concerning the promotion of life through good health. According to Dr. Patrick Chukwuemeka Korie, Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Managed Health care Services Limited, Lagos, Nigeria, the NHIS is one of the best policies that have been churned out for the benefit of Nigerians. The objectives of the Scheme to provide qualitative and accessible health care to the citizenry while reducing the cost of medicare are indeed profound. The Scheme has a plan for every Nigerian that desires health insurance under the Voluntary Contributors’ Insurance Scheme, open to all Nigerians”, Dr. Korie explained. According to this top brass in health insurance administration in Nigeria, if the Buhari’s administration could implement its package of medicare, it would go a long way to making health insurance almost compulsory for Nigerian homes and families. Stakeholders express regret that the level of compliance by corporate organizations and individuals to the NHIS package has been rather very low.

At present, NHIS regulates health insurance while the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are the actual operators and providers. We have over 60 registered HMOs, including MHS across the country. One good thing about NHIS is the provision of access to all levels of medicare. Those who have health insurance will always see the doctor 24/7 and it gives access to all the levels of medicare-primary, secondary and tertiary. “Health Insurance reduces the cost of medical burden. Before now, people do sell their property, land and other assets to access medicare but health insurance eliminates that. At times, I look at health insurance as a poverty alleviation measure because picking up a health insurance reduces health expenses, frees funds for you to invest in other areas; picking a health insurance ensures that you are healthy, you know people atimes delay going to the hospitals because they don’t have money. Delaying access to medicare because of lack of money leads to death”, health insurance expert, Dr. Korie, averred.

As would be expected, stakeholders in the nation’s health sector therefore hope that the incoming Buhari administration would indeed “walk the talk” as it has promised during the recently excruciating and tension-soaked nationwide political campaigns for the 2015 Presidential Polls. By promising to slash the premium from N15,000 to N5,000 per annum, APC has invariably set in motion appropriate mechanism for high and unprecedented national coverage of the health insurance scheme.

The business of health insurance is therefore expected to boom in the days and years ahead if all things remain equal. Investigations show that about 2,580 hospitals nationwide are health care providers under the NHIS. However, this number is expected to increase judging by the Buhari’s government plan to boosting life through provisions of affordable and functional medicare.

Experts maintain that the benefits of health insurance are indeed immense. If these are crystallized by the APC government at the Centre in the next four years, via its mouth-watering N5,000 (almost free medicare) package for Nigerian homes and families, then the need and desire for “change” which Nigerians have already demonstrated by giving Gen. Buhari a far-flunged and highly sought for mandate on March 28, 2015, would not have been in vain.

It is quite comforting that Nigerians are really becoming so involved in the Nigeria project, they are increasingly becoming conscious of getting what they need, the electorate are making delicate choices, it now behoves on those entrusted with the people’s mandate to deliver on their electioneering promises or get blacklisted at the next polls.

The “change” Nigerians yearn for and which the APC has since promised can really begin with little things that matter. A healthy nation, they say, is indeed a wealthy one. That is why the Buhari-led APC administration cannot afford to fail Nigerians especially in this area of religiously executing improved, affordable and accessible health care delivery. This is one of the products the new Order wants to sell to Nigerians which informed their voting behaviour. So after the rabble-rousing and sabre-rattling, Nigerians are full of great expectations from Buhari. But come to think of it, is Buhari and his men miracle-workers or mere change-agents used to flush out the highly occultic and fossilized PDP? The answer remains in the womb of time.

•Alia wrote in from Lagos.