FG Unveils Guidelines for Implementation of Mandatory Health Insurance Scheme

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

As part of the implementation plan for the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act, the federal government has launched guidelines for the operation of the scheme.

The Director General of NHIA, Prof. Mohammad Sambo, said the  launch of the operational guidelines, became necessary following the enactment of the NHIA Act (2022) which makes health insurance now mandatory in Nigeria.

Speaking at the formal unveiling of the guidelines in Abuja, yesterday, Sambo said NHIA operational guidelines provides an enabling platform for the promotion integration and regulation of health insurance in Nigeria

Sambo, said, the NHIA Operational Guideline 2023, was a secondary law that clarifies roles, responsibilities, and obligations of various stakeholders and facilitates the implementation of Health insurance in Nigeria.

He added: “The NHIA Act of 2022 laid the foundation for a transformative healthcare system in Nigeria that genuinely aspires to leave no one behind. “No Nigerian should choose between their health and financial well-being.

“If health insurance must be met, there must be for the coverage of the vulnerable groups, all those encapsulated in the law, and I’ve been having an exponentiated understanding of how we are going to try this to social insurance for the attainment of request of  health coverage, and sustainable life.”

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, who unveiled the guidelines said the country was yet to attain the target in its health insurance plan

According to Pate, before the transformation to the new NHIA, Nigeria was a national coverage of between eight per cent and nine percent of the population, which was not where the country intended to be.

He regretted that the high rate of spending out of the pocket by families to access healthcare was responsible which he said the government, in collaboration with critical health sector partners, was determined to address. He said the NHIA was a pointer to the seriousness attached to it by the government .

The Minister said the target of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration was to have at least 50 million vulnerable Nigerians enrolled in a few years.

He said: “These guidelines are to provide direction, so that as a country, the federal government and its contribution with the states with the provisions of the basic health care provision fund, that we will work in a concerted way to expand the affordability of health care for the population in our country, especially the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians.

“These guidelines have been developed in a consultative manner with all actors-public, private, civil society, and with engagement of the state governments.

“So it’s Nigeria coming together to say that people should not be pushed into poverty because of the cost of ill health.

“And so, as we implemented on the basis of these guidelines, we should see, more Nigerians are covered over time to meet the goals that have been set by Mr. President for his administration. We have over seven of the Global Health Insurance Program.

“We have less than 10 per cent now, so the President’s aspiration is transformative so that we leapfrog.

“We expect faster progress and higher rates of increase in coverage over the next few years, and with the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), there is a portion of it that is allocated to the vulnerable groups, and we’ll make sure it gets to them.

“Complementary to that, we’re also going to invest in the primary health care arena where almost 1,000 primary health care centres all over the country are going to be receiving funds through the BHCPF.

“Now, we would expand the space where other private sector development partners can contribute to accelerate and as the fiscal space of the government improves, we should expect more domestic financing going into that direction,” he said.

The Minister of State for Education, Tanko Sununu, who was instrumental to the passage of the NHIA Act 2022, also decried the prevailing high rate of out of pocket spending of almost 70 per cent to access healthcare hu Nigerians.

In her remarks, the Special Assistant to President on Health, Salma Ibrahim Anas, acknowledged the work put into the operational guidelines by the management of NHIA, while adding that Tinubu was passionate about health and wellbeing of Nigerians which was the reason for sector being in the center of his development agenda.

She, however, noted that gaps inherent in health governance should be addressed in consonance with the Four-point Agenda of the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, while stressing the need for a stringer collaboration between the Federal and sub national government of the desired results must be achieved

Sununu, enjoined the Minister to work assiduously towards the passage of critical health related bills that were passed but could not get the assent of the president in the last National Assembly.

On her part, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Beta Edu, emphasised the importance of the NHIA if the country was desirous of attaining universal coverage.

She said it was an uphill task but with concerted effort from everyone, it would be achieveable when health risk costs are shared.

The NHIA Act 2022 which replaced the 2004 law recognises the decentralised state of health insurance in Nigeria, provided for the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF) and empowered the NHIA to promote, regulate and integrate health insurance schemes in the country.

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