How Nigeria can achieve universal health coverage, by Lambo
FORMER health minister, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, has called for a legislation to make the National Health Insurance Scheme compulsory for all Nigerians for the country to achieve universal health coverage.
He said the law that set up the scheme was inadequate especially as it makes participation in it optional, thereby restricting involvement of millions of Nigerians.
The former minister, who disclosed this at the Annual Customer Forum organized by United Healthcare International in Abuja, maintained that a community health insurance scheme should be put in place for implementation by all the three tiers of government as well as non-governmental organizations.
Lambo, who originated the National Health Bill in 2004, stated that the National Health Act must be well funded, monitored and evaluated to make it work.
He also urged states to commence their own health insurance scheme, and lamented that most states have not accorded priority to the sector. “Health is not on the political agenda of some governors in Nigeria,” he said and added that almost ten years after former President Olusegun Obasanjo flagged off the health insurance coverage for the formal sector, Nigeria is yet to attain 10 per cent coverage.
Lambo decried the idea of people paying out of their pocket for healthcare services; an idea, which he said, could actually deprive the less privileged in the society.
Lambo stated that achieving universal health coverage would be hard to attain without expanding the fiscal space (through increasing domestic tax revenues, expanding tax base, developing social health insurance, getting debt relief).
The former health minister disclosed that inequalities in health outcomes exist between rural and urban areas, as well as across income groups with these poor outcomes resulting to weakness in the health sector, particularly in primary healthcare services.
In his speech, the current Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, assured that the Federal Government was poised to implement the National Health Act, which was recently passed by 8th National Assembly.
Represented by the Acting Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Mr. Femi Akingbade, he lamented that many primary healthcare centres in the country are in deplorable condition.
Adewole therefore assured that the Buhari’s administration is working assiduously to improve primary healthcare in the country.
Akingbade lamented the notorious gap in the nation’s health care and stressed the need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system, as a lot of people are becoming despondent and losing confidence in this critical sector. He added that this kind of forum by United Healthcare international is an important platform for the HMOs to get feedbacks, as well as, enables us review our operations from time to time. This is important to know those opportunities and the challenges that you are facing in your operations”.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman, United Healthcare International, Alhaji Isa Zarewa, stated that the event was organized to appreciate the contributions of its customers and at the same to have a feed back in terms of the products and services that the company provides.
He stated that as one of the earliest Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) right from the inception of the scheme in Nigeria years ago, the company has continued be at the forefront of providing quality health care services across the federation.
The high point of the occasion was the occasion was the presentation of ISO and SON Certifications to the company by Bureaue Veritas and Standard Organization of Nigeria, respectively.