Enrollees, experts seek full implementation of health insurance law

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By Lilian U. Okoro
Lagos, May 21, 2022 Some experts and enrollees have called for a framework that would guarantee full implementation of the newly signed National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) law by the Federal Government.

They made the call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Lagos in reaction to the newly signed National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022.

NAN recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari on May 19 signed into law, the National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022, repealing thereby, the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, Cap N42, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

Buhari had said that a Vulnerable Group Fund would be set up to ensure coverage of 83 million poor Nigerians who could not afford to pay premiums as recommended by the Lancet Nigeria Commission.

He said that the Authority would collaborate with state government Health Insurance Schemes to accredit primary and secondary health facilities and enroll Nigerians into the scheme to ensure quality health care delivery.

Reacting to the new development, a medical imaging scientist, Dr Livinus Abonyi, who lauded the Buhari for signing the Bill into law, adding that health insurance was a desirable “way to go”.

Abonyi, lecturer, Department of Medical Radiography, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said it was used in many countries to ensure that greater percentage of their population accessed health services.

According to him, the effective implementation of the new health insurance law is the key to the law having the expected positive impact on the society.

Abonyi called for a review of the operations of the healthcare providers and Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to ensure improvement in their services.

He said there was the need for adequate funding of healthcare providers and HMOs to enhance the quality of their service delivery.

“The major challenge that will make the new health insurance system not to impact on the lives of the citizens is poor or lack of implementation of the law.

“The country had series of commendable laws and policies in past but they failed due to poor implementation and lack of adequate monitoring.

“If there can be a better framework for effective implementation of the new health insurance; its positive impacts will be massive in the country,” Abonyi said.

A staff of Sunu Health, an HMO, Mr Godwin Ekanem, said the newly signed health insurance Act was a “welcome development”.

Ekanem said that health insurance remained the only way to guarantee universal health coverage in the country.

He said with the provisions of the new health insurance, vulnerable persons, including those in the rural communities, would now have access to health services.

He further said there was the need for enforcement of the law, saying that adequate implementation will go a long way to reduce mortality rate, while improving citizens’ health.

An enrollee of NHIA, Mr Moses Omorogieva, said national health insurance remained one of the government’s initiatives that had greatly impacted his life.

Omorogieva, also a journalist working at NAN, said the programme helped him and his household accessed good number of healthcare services.

He, however, called for improvement in the quality of services and healthcare rendered under the programme.

He suggested expansion of the scope of the scheme to cover more ailments and drugs.

According to him, improvement in the quality of services will not only attract more enrollees, but also restore public confidence in the programme.

“Some major ailments, surgeries, tests and medical investigations are not covered in the scheme.

“Let the management of the system add ailments like cancer, kidney diseases, MRI scan, among others to the package.

“Ensuring availability of drugs is another important aspect because oftentimes, sometimes if doctors prescribe, say six drugs for a patient, the healthcare provider ends up giving the patient only one.

“The management of the system should understand that quality healthcare is not cheap,” Omorogieva said