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‘Nigeria needs N1.92tr to provide free health insurance’


THE Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Femi Thomas, has said that a total of N1.92 trillion is needed yearly to capture all Nigerians in a health insurance scheme that can guarantee quality health care for all classes of Nigerians.

Speaking yesterday at a stakeholders’ consultative forum on states’ health insurance scheme in Abuja, the NHIS boss said that if sourced, the money would be pooled and used to finance health care needs of rural and urban dwelling Nigerians under any given circumstance.

Thomas, who said that sourcing N1.92 trillion yearly may not be feasible now, especially in the face of the current cash-crunch caused by drop in world oil price, noted that Nigerians spent a total of N2.8 trillion yearly as out-of-pocket expenses in medical expenses, adding that such huge overhead can be effectively channelled to more efficient use, leading to reduction in capital flight for overseas medical care.

And as a stop gap measure, Thomas said that the NHIS has come up with a carefully-crafted policy where states are expected to enroll all their citizens in a compulsory health insurance plan as done by the Lagos State government.

The idea, according to him, is to provide adequate cover for both the rich and the poor in the event that urgent medical services are required.

He said that the notion of free healthcare is faulty, adding that somewhere along the line, either government or development partners pick the costs. According to him, his agency is prepared to provide logistical support to states that indicate interest in embracing the new policy of enrolling their citizens in a compulsory health insurance cover.

He added that the plan would help to reduce maternal mortality among other life threatening health concerns, especially in the rural areas.

Thomas, who expressed gladness that so far, 21 states of the federation have included social health insurance scheme in their yearly budget, even as he said that the National University Commission (NUC) has issued a directive that all universities in the country must enroll their students in a social health insurance scheme.

He added that polytechnics and other tertiary institutions have also been directed by their supervising commission to enroll their students in social health insurance scheme.

While commending Federal Government workers who had been consistent in the remittance of their 1.75 per cent health insurance contribution, the NHIS boss said only few Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are complying with the scheme’s contributory requirements.

On the informal sector programme, he said six pilot states have been chosen as test-grounds for the efficacy of a new community-based health insurance programmes, adding that 41 community-based health management plans have been initiated, and called on state governments to buy into the scheme.

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