Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Act establishing the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) requires a comprehensive review in order to make it work more efficiently, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has said.
Speaking in a media interview in Abuja, the minister said the weak structure of the act establishing the scheme was the reason for the incessant crisis in the agency.
The minister said the act as presently constituted made participation in the scheme by Nigerians voluntary instead of compulsory.
He noted that the act made insurance voluntary and that is why we are supporting National Assembly to repel the Act and put in place a comprehensive package. Let it be comprehensive because it cannot be voluntary. There is need for review of the Act and it is ongoing.
“I can tell you today that no Executive Secretary of NHIS has completed a full term in office without being sacked or suspended, apart from Mohammed Dogo, the pioneer executive secretary. So, it is not just about this administration.”
The minister said it had become imperative “to review the act as it gave too much power to the governing board. Social media has made information readily accessible and available. It made things look as if it is only now that these things are happening, it used to happen before.
“We are asking the presidential panel to take a more holistic look at the NHIS, to review the Act of the scheme. The Act seems to have given so much power to the governing board.
“The governing council, by that Act, was given the power to do whatever is necessary to keep the scheme running. If the council now thinks it is important to do anything to keep the scheme running, nobody can say no.
“That is why we say the Act needs to be revised and be more specific. If you look closely, it is as if the council does almost everything there. The Act is one of the major issues with the scheme. Why NHIS has not covered majority of Nigerians, is because it is voluntary.”
“When it is voluntary, it makes people not take it seriously. Our disposition- as Nigerians, we don’t take our health critical. We don’t even treat our body the way we treat our car.
“When we wake up in the morning, you have a car you clean it up, you test the engine oil, you test the water level etc. Many people do not treat their body as well as they treat their cars.
“When it comes to health, nobody wants to pay for health. We all want it free and that is why, for us to make it free, somebody has to pay for it. In the UK, the health insurance is there but it’s being funded, essentially, by taxation.
“What we need to look at in NHIS is how do we put more money in health, put more resources together, to take care of everybody and ensure maximum coverage,” the minister said
It would be recalled that the NHIS was enmeshed in crisis recently following the suspension of the Executive Secretary of the Scheme, Professor Usman Yusuf by the Governing Board of the Scheme following allegations of corruption.
Yusuf later defied the suspension by resuming with a detachment of policemen. A presidential panel was later raised to look into the issues surrounding the suspension.