Private sector urged to join health insurance scheme

LAGOS (LAGOS STATE) – The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) on Tuesday urged the Organised Private Sector (OPS) to key into the scheme.
Dr Femi Thomas, Executive Secretary, NHIS, made the call while addressing employers of labour in the private sector in Lagos on Tuesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the session was tagged: “Active Participation of Formal Sector in Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP)”.
Thomas, represented by Dr Femi Akingbade, General Manager, Information Communication Technology (ICT) of NHIS, said only a healthy workforce could realise the goals and aspirations of its organisation.
“We should see how we can actually provide accessible and affordable healthcare.
“For us to think of wealth, we must look at the wellbeing of the people that are going to generate wealth.
“You are in the formal sector and you should actually be covered under the health insurance.
“Today, this NHIS has covered about 97 or 98 per cent of workers in the Federal Government’s establishments. It is high time that this scheme is expanded.
“If you look at the statistics in Nigeria, almost 80 per cent of the medical expenses are being paid out of pockets.
“This is a high cost compared to what we can gain if we have a pool of funds that everybody can access.’’
He contended that the larger the pool, the cheaper it would be to access healthcare, adding that if the pool of fund is there, you will access care.
“We are appealing to the organised private sector because you are educated, let us be our brother’s keeper”, he said.
Thomas added that the privileged in the society should not forget that there are some people called “vulnerable“ who cannot afford healthcare
The executive secretary said that the country would need about N1.9 trillion to provide healthcare for all Nigerians in one year.
He said many people were paying high charges for consulting doctors, adding that such was enough to take care of lots of people if pooled.
Thomas said the scheme had about 7.5 million enrolees in its database made up of federal workers, spouses and children.
The NHIS scribe, however, said the number was negligible compared to the 170 million people in Nigeria.
He said the NHIS would like to capture everybody, irrespective of their status in the society.
Thomas explained that this was why the scheme designed programme for OPS as well as workers in states.
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“We also have the Public Primary Pupils, and we are thinking of enrolling them and also subsidise the payment for their healthcare.
“We have Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme which is for those in the tertiary institutions all over the country with a population of over four million”, he added.
Earlier, Mr Olusegun Oshinowo, the Director General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), said the coverage level of NHIS was still very low.
“The fact is that for any nation to grow its economy it requires a healthy workforce, it is only a healthy workforce that can promote economy development.
“For a nation to have a healthy workforce, there must be an appropriate policy in place, an appropriate framework and appropriate funding mechanism.
“This is to ensure that each and every worker has access to basic healthcare, but the coverage level is very low, under 10 per cent.”
He also decried the low quality of service being provided under the scheme.
Oshinowo said the performance of NHIS in the formal sector could sell the scheme to the informal sector, urging the scheme to deliver quality service.
“If we don’t tackle the issue of quality, we will not be able to extend meaningful health coverage to the bulk of the workforce that is actually in the informal sector and not in the formal sector.
“Formal sector employees represent less than two per cent of the workforce of this economy’’, he said.
Dr Eke Jonathan, Acting General Manager, Formal Sector, said endemic poverty, inadequate budgetary allocation to health, among other factors, necessitated the scheme.
Jonathan spoke on: Healthcare Financing in Nigeria: NHIS and the Organised Private Sector.
“The global economic problems with reduced government revenues call for additional sources of resources for healthcare,’’ he said. (NAN)

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