Enugu: Enrollees lament poor treatment
Only Federal Workers Are Covered By NHIS
Since the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2005, in Enugu State, only federal health workers have enrolled into it.One of the beneficiaries of the scheme, Mr Emmanuel Egwu said since he registered with the scheme, he pays only ten percent of his total bill in any hospital where the services are obtainable.
Explaining that the scheme has been helpful to him, “especially since my wife has always given birth through surgery”, he however, observed that there was need to increase the number of drugs covered by the scheme to save the enrollees from making purchases from outside the hospitals.”
Acccording to him, “Any time I go to the hospital, I pay ten percent of the bill. But most of the time you go to the hospital, they will tell you that certain drugs are not available and you end up buying with your money and that money is not refunded. Again the issue of strike, anytime there is strike, the hospital will be on strike and it will affect the treatment of any enrollees. We were told that they had an agreement with the hospitals on this, but in practice, it is not working. I suggest they should up their drug list to make drugs available for the people,” he said.
Mrs Onyinye Onu, is a staff of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki and a beneficiary of the Scheme. She told The Guardian that; she is not happy with the scheme because of the level of drugs and services rendered under it.
“I am a federal worker and I know they don’t bring in good drugs to be administered on the people benefitting from it. You see, people like to see doctors and after seeing doctors, they prescribe drugs they know will take care of your problem, but you go there they will tell you it is out of stock. They also say you must have a secondary code (a kind of number that will cover you for at least three months after your fist visit). The code is such that you will not be treated again until after three months. I don’t think it is right. They pay attention more to those who are not on NHIS and they will tell you it is because of manpower.” she said.
Mrs Ngozi Nwagwu, another federal worker, also spoke in the same vein, saying her experience at one of the federal hospitals, where her husband was treated recently, showed that the scheme has not been effective.
“I can only tell you that hospitals prefer those that will pay cash for the services to those that they will need to write letters before they could get their money. But to me, it also saved us some costs then because, we hadn’t money when that incident happened,” she stated.
Investigations by The Guardian showed that the NHIS has been treated like the contributory pension scheme, which Enugu state workers are yet to enroll in. Sources said the State Government has not deemed it necessary to enroll workers in the scheme despite several agitations that have been made in the past by the workers. It is being alleged that government’s disdain to the scheme may not be unconnected with poor salary scheme, which had gone on in the state for some time. Enugu State remains the only state that has refused to pay the minimum wage.
State Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Virginus Nwobodo told The Guardian that workers had made several efforts to be part of the contributory scheme, adding that they had entered into negotiation with the State Government on this without reaching an acceptable conclusion.
“We began negotiation over the NHIS with previous administrations in the state. We have not concluded and I think that this is as a result of resources, which they would always complain about,” he said.Although the states are supposed to come into the scheme through the Social Insurance Programme, none of the state governments in the Southeast has embraced the scheme so far.
Enugu State Coordinator of the Scheme, Mrs Ahunna Ochor, said it was not true that the drugs administered under the scheme were “inferior” drugs, stressing that government considered it cheaper to use what she described as “generic drugs than the branded drugs”.
“These drugs function effectively and we have essential drug lists that we use. The problem is that enrollees feel that their efficacies are not the same with the branded drugs. We have done a lot of sensitization on this. We have not been able to cover much because the state governments have not registered their workers. Presently, only federal workers are contributing and benefitting from it. We have introduced the voluntary contributory social health scheme to enable us reach Nigerians, who may either not be working or working but decided to be part of it on their own,” she said.
The Coordinator, who frowned at reports that certain drugs on their lists are often times not found in hospitals where the services could be obtained thereby making the enrollees buy such drugs from outside. She said such cases have always been taken care by the agency.
“We ensure that such hospitals refund the money to the enrollee when we get such cases. So it is also in the interest of any enrollee to report such cases to us when they experience it”, she said.
Recently about 17 Health Management Organisations (HMOs) under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) were delisted in what Mrs Ochor, said were due to their inability to meet requirements set out by the Scheme.