Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has commenced a reform process to make the operations of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) more accountable and transparent.
Part of the reforms is to ensure strict adherence to laid down rules and put an end to delays in remittance of payments to healthcare providers.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who stated the government’s resolve at the NHIS strategic stakeholders’ engagement with Health Maintenance Organisation (HMOs) in Abuja, said that President Muhammadu Buhari has asked ministers to work hard to achieve results in key sectors of the economy especially in areas that effect the wellbeing of Nigerians at the grassroots level.
The minister charged the management of NHIS to plug all the loopholes that may hinder the effective delivery of its mandate.
He described President Buhari’s intervention in removing the former executive secretary from office as an appropriate action which has arrested the drift and enabled NHIS to go back to work under a focused new leadership.
The minister said that since the appointment of the new executive secretary, the organisation has witnessed remarkable improvement.
He said that NHIS had embarked on a process of rapid appraisal to identify the challenges militating against the growth and progress in the system.
Ehanire also cautioned the HMOs to guard against the practice of non-remittance of payments to healthcare providers.
He warned that such anomalies are no longer acceptable as the current administration is determined to improve on the health coverage.
The minister said: “Reports reaching me indicate that an overwhelming percentage of enrollees and health care providers have expressed grave concerns over the performance of HMOs, with areas of the concerns including, but not limited to, non-remittance of payments to healthcare providers, poor customer service delivery and inaccessibility to enrollees at critical moments of need.
“The collective results of these and many other cases of service failure in the industry are poor service delivery, poor quality of care and a worrisome reputation damage for the Scheme.”
Ehinare charged the new management team at the NHIS to strive to restore the confidence and trust of Nigerians in the operation of the scheme.
He also urged the HMOs to key into the reforms to rebrand NHIS, by frankly addressing internal reforms within and among themselves, adding that the on-going reforms in the scheme are comprehensive and far-reaching.
“Let it be noted today, ladies and gentlemen, that these anomalies are no longer acceptable, because this government is determined to get it right with NHIS, in view of its status as a strategic tool for effective and efficient healthcare delivery system in the country.
“It is my candid view that this review process is most appropriate and timely, considering that NHIS had been in the eye of the storm in recent years, with grave consequences on the sustenance of corporate focus and the quality of service delivery,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Nasiru Sambo, said that President Buhari is desirous of seeing the immediate improvement in the efficiency and coverage of the health insurance programme in the country.
He said the president charged the ministers during their retreat to ensure that there are visible results in key sectors in the various ministries.
Sambo said he is implementing a three-point rebranding agenda for NHIS which include, restoring the value system, engendering transparency and accountability in the entire operations of the scheme and driving the reform process to achieve universal healthcare services to all Nigerians.
A former president of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Kayode Obebe, who spoke on behalf of operators of HMOs, said that what the health insurance scheme needs to make the desired impact is adherence to laid down rules and regulations.
He expressed the hope that the country will be able to bring about 50 million of its citizens under the health insurance coverage in a few year’s time.