Heavy charges, red tape slow down mobile health cover, says Akingbade

Linus-Awute

Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute

ACTING Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Femi Akingbade, has decried how heavy administrative charges and bureaucracy among identity managers have slowed the spread of the National Mobile Health Insurance Programme (NMHIP) since it launched in 2014.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Akingbade said: “NHIS had not been optimally providing the mobile health insurance payments and fees coming to them from agreed distribution of funds were being sucked by administrative charges on mobile network operators. “One of the things that is happening is that we are having delivery failure because the stakeholders seem not to totally agree with the payments and fees that are coming to them based on the agreed distribution of the funds that are being contributed.”

Akingbade said, who was appointed acting executive secretary this April said: “This can be attributed to a lot of things because we found out that because of the MNOs [mobile network operators] that are involved, there are lots of government charges that they need to pay and a lot of the fees are going into administrative charges which we are trying to reduce.”

The mobile health insurance would require NHIS to tap into teledensity of nearly 120 million Nigerians registered on mobile networks as well link phone numbers to existing data already captured by operators during SIM card registration.

But, he said, the data is warehoused by the Nigeria Communications Commission. “We need to collaborate with the Nigerian Communication Commission, National Identity Management Corporation, Mobile Network Operators, and lots of other agencies that are into identity management and that actually slowed the process which we are actually working on,” said Akingbade.

NHIS access to the database would preclude it capturing fresh biometrics for any new enrolee of the mobile health insurance. “One of the things that we are still trying to work on and implore NCC to do is to release that data base for us for access to those data as it saves us a lot in recreating the wheel.

They have already done a biometric registration and they have the details of the people that own these phones. What we are now saying is that if somebody that owns a phone wants to register for NMHIP, please give me the data so that I don’t need to go ahead to start capturing a new biometric data,” explained Akingbade.

“We are working with NIMC on the harmonisation of the two data bases and also use the opportunity to help NIMC to register people.” NHIS has promised to directly reimburse those already registered for mobile health insurance when they visit hospitals.

Some 20 Lagos hospitals were chosen for to pilot the reimbursement of mobile health insurance carriers whose health cover is tangled in disagreements among network operators and identity managers.

But the spread of the facilities, people see the “distance to their locations as being very far, so they have not actually gone ahead to patronise those people,” said Akingbade. “But I’m sure that with time, we are going to do a national launch and all accredited facilities under the NHIS would be able to render service in the nearest future.”

The programme, the Chief Executive noted, is in collaboration with a cross section of stakeholders, including Salt & Einstein MTS Ltd as Mobile Technology Aggregator, the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), the National Communications Commission (NCC), Health Maintenance Organisations (HMO) and Healthcare Facilities (HCF).

He said Mobile Health Insurance is a platform for the application of information technology in the operations of the NHIS, and it involves automatic online registration including choice of HCFs and HMOs.

The NHIS boss stated that modalities are in place to eliminate fraud in the process, by facilitating identification, using telephone numbers, NHIS number or thumb print, as the case may be, through a central Health Insurance Information Exchange that transmits all related transactions to relevant stakeholders.

The required equipment, which he said has been adapted to the local peculiarities of the people, is to be distributed free to over 7,000 accredited facilities nationwide when the programme is fully operational.

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