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Government provides health insurance for retirees, 15m elderly persons

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*NHIS unveils new group package as Senate deplores 7% scheme coverage more than 15 years after take-off
The Federal Government has inaugurated a ministerial committee on the provision of health insurance for retirees and about 15 million elderly persons in the country.

Consequently, government is to develop a framework for health insurance for elderly persons in the country. Speaking at the inauguration of the committee, Monday in Abuja, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the COVID-19 pandemic haD made it obvious that about 80 per cent of older persons have pre-existing medical conditions requiring regular medications and depending solely on a pension allowance that is barely enough to meet basic household needs, they experience an extra burden that defeats the essence of pension and may fall into depression.

Ehanire noted that the move underscoreD the resolve and commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to improve access to healthcare and promote the wellbeing of ageing citizens of our country through provision of health insurance.

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He said, “The President subscribes to the view that elders who have served their country be treated with respect and dignity and commits to investing in older persons in recognition of the contribution they continue to make to family, community and nation. This aligns with global best practices in health care for older persons. Older persons with intergeneration links are a force for socioeconomic growth with institutional memory and experience to shepherd Youths and advise on growth opportunities. Health and Wellbeing are crucial to older persons’ independence and autonomy and critical to maintaining inclusion and participation in community affairs.

According to him, “Nigeria is a signatory to many global commitments on health, a particular one of which is the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage for healthier lives and wellbeing of citizens of all ages, in accordance with the President’s vision to “Leave No One Behind” in pursuit of health related Sustainable Development Goals No 3. ‘The elderly and retirees of 60 years and above, make up six to seven per cent, being 15 million out of Nigeria’s population, and the size of some countries. The elderly may be facing glaring health challenges, over and beyond the wear and year of aging, and additional strain from financial challenges and psychosocial issues of adjusting to a retiree’s life. Sooner than later, problems of cognition set in slowly.”

The minister listed the committee’s Terms of Reference (TOR) to include: To assess the current situation of health Insurance coverage and access to health care for retirees and senior citizens (over 60 years) in Nigeria, to develop a national framework for the effective health insurance coverage of retirees and Senior citizens, to make recommendations to the Honorable Minister of Health on the potential resource mobilisation as well as other mechanisms for the successful implementation of the framework.

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In his remarks, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora, said that provision of health insurance for the elderly WAs part of efforts to improving the quality of life of older persons in the country to ameliorate challenges associated with old age.

He noted that Nigeria has more than 5 million people of over 60 years of age and providing health insurance for this category of citizens will improve our health indices will improve and accelerate the quest to attain Universal Health Coverage in the country.

Presenting an overview of the proposed insurance for the elderly, Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Mohammed Nasir Sambo, said that the agency haD developed a comprehensive matrix to cover all Nigerians with health insurance adding that the NHIS will work out modalities for the new initiative because it includes retirees fro the Federal, states and local governments as well as retires from the private sector.

Sambo explained that the scheme would leverage on the Basic Healthcare Provisions Fund (BHCPF) to provide coverage for people who have no means of paying for the health insurance and will come up with a blue print for effective coverage of all elderly persons and retirees in the country.

The NHIS boss added that they would embark on collaborative effort with the National Pension Commission (PenCom) to ensure sustainable funding for those who retired without full salary, stressing that the health insurance for the elderly is with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets and to help fast track Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

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Also, the NHIS has unveiled a new health insurance policy known as the Group Individual and Family Social Insurance Package (GIFSHIP) to help drive the attainment of Universal Health Coverage in the country.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, has lamented that more than 15 years after the take off of NHIS, only 7 per cent of Nigerians are covered by the scheme.

Speaking at the launch of the insurance scheme tagged GIFSHIP in Abuja, Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Nasiru Sambo, said that GIFSHIP will leverage on the overarching e-NHIS framework which has been on the drawing board for more than a decade and which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), to be deployed in few months to come.

He explained that the move was in line with the determination of the federal government to expand the health insurance coverage to accommodate all Nigerians.

According to him, “Under the new scheme, groups and families can now enjoy special health insurance cover.”He said that as part of efforts to improve its services, the scheme has fully automised it’s operations through the e-NHIS platform.

According to Sambo, all the information and documentations relating to the NHIS can now be accessed through its website. NHIS was established about 20 years ago by Act 35 of 1999 now CAP N42 LFN 2004, with the mandate to ensure financial access to quality health services for all Nigerians through health insurance. The Scheme started with a number of models of health insurance, culminating in the commencement of the formal sector programme for federal civil servants”.

Sambo said that NHIS had since developed other programmes, which targeted different population segments with the aim to bringing them into a common pool.

While explaining the uniqueness of the new insurance package to an audience in Abuja, Sambo said the programme would enable individuals, families and groups to join the NHIS ecosystem.

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GIFSHIP comes under three categories of beneficiaries, family (N60,000 premium), one to three individuals (N45,000 premium) and group (N15,000 premium).

He said that some of the appealing features of the insurance package are: “The inbuilt mechanisms to guard against moral hazard, adverse selection as well as allowing room for organizations, political office holders, donor agencies, multinational corporations, philanthropists and people in diaspora to contribute their quota towards the attainment of UHC.”

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who unveiled the insurance product, described GIFSHIP as a product of the lessons learned and the experience gained from implementing a previous programme, the Vital Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme (VCSHIP).

According to the minister, the new programme addresses the challenges and barriers encountered during implementation of the VCSHIP, both by beneficiaries and operators.

“GIFSHIP eliminates known difficulties as it creates additional value by expanding and upgrading VCSHIP for better reach, service quality and user experience.

“Those who have closely followed the story of NHIS, will not fail to note that this is the benefit of the enabling environment for productive work, accruing from the peace and harmony that now reign there,” he said.

In his remark, Senator Oloriegbe expressed concern that the NHIS coverage in the country has bee very low.He said the Senate recently passed the Bill reviewing the NHIS Act and renaming it the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).

According to Oloriegbe, the NHIA will bring all other health insurance scheme under one roof. He also said that the new Act would make health insurance mandatory for every Nigerian.

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