By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Over ten million Nigerians have now subscribed to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The scheme said that so far about 10,269,996 have enrolled into the scheme.
In his progress report presented at an informal engagement with health correspondents in Kaduna at the weekend, the Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Mohammed Nasir Sambo said the organisation has been able to make huge recoveries from it’s cost saving reforms.
On the progress made in raising the subscriber base of the scheme, Sambo said that “the population of Nigerians that have enrolled in the health insurance scheme has risen to 10,269,996 from 6 million earlier reported by the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS)”.
He explained that as part of strategies to increase its subscriber base, NHIS has mapped the entire segments of the Nigerian population including the Nigerian Youth Service Corp (NYSC).
“We have mapped the population and we are engaging the management of the NYSC to ensure that they are covered in the framework of the national health insurance scheme.
“You know that there was a presidential directive in the past that all NYSC members should covered by the scheme but due to budgetary constraints, it was not implemented,” he said.
Sambo also said that NHIS is making efforts to retrieve about N11 billion mistakenly trapped in the federation account.
In the same vein, he said that the scheme is working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC,) to recover another N10 billion lodged at Heritage Bank by previous leadership of the scheme.
Sambo who delivered a speech
highlighting the achievements recorded by NHIS since his appointment in November, 2019,
said that the problem of the health insurance scheme has been that of poor enrolment.
However, he noted that there has been a remarkable progress in the reform efforts at NHIS which has resulted in increase in patronage by Nigerians.
According to him, the management of the scheme has embarked on a reform to decentralise it’s operations by strengthening state and zonal offices of the health insurance scheme.
He said that the much expected bill to amend the NHIS Act and make health insurance scheme mandatory on all Nigerians has scaled through the National Assembly and is now waiting for presidential assent.
Sambo said that contrary to insinuation that NHIS has not been to achieve much in terms of teaching the universal health insurance for all in the last 20 years, the major impediment is the law limiting its utilisation.
According to Sambo, since the law setting up NHIS makes it optional, many people who would have enrolled into it chose not to do so.
He explained that due to this optional nature of the insurance scheme, most employees in the formal sector who would have formed the bulk of the enrollees refused to enlist into it.
He also said the entire informal sector was left out of the scheme merely because, most organisations did not see it as mandatory.
Sambo said that as long as the Act establishing the NHIS is not amended to make the scheme compulsory, the goal of significantly increasing the coverage in the country will remain a mere dream.
He said that 70 percent of health insurance funding is coming through user fees which is not sustainable.
Sambo said that the best way to fund health insurance is by pooling resources through mass enrolling in the health insurance scheme at all levels.
The Executive Secretary said that while appreciable progress is being made at the federal level, not much is happening in the state and local government areas in terms of enrolment into state health insurance scheme.
He disclosed that one of the recent decisions taken by the management is to ensure NHIS is fully automated to make for seamless operations.
He also spoke about the decision by the management of NHIS to decentralise it’s operations by strengthening the state branches with more staff postings from the headquarters.
“What we did was to say, what will be the functions of state offices and we drew an organogram for state offices of the scheme so that they can function in a most effective manner. We also posted staff from the head office to the state offices, to fill the gaps,”he added.