Association urges Buhari to begin informal NHIS

BuhariPresident Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to begin the informal sector of he National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and equally initiative a legislation to make it compulsory that every Nigerian is covered by one form of health insurance.

The Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) is optimistic that this gesture would show the seriousness of government in achieving universal health coverage in the country.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the NHIS and officially flagged off the formal sector of the scheme.The formal sector covers the public sector, organized private sector and armed forces, police and other uniformed services. The National Health Insurance Scheme launched in 2005 was built on the framework that it would cover both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

Chairman of the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria, Dr. Kolawole Owoka, gave this charge in an interview with The Guardian in Abuja.

Owoka, who spoke shortly after his members met with the management of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to iron out certain gray areas in the implementation of the scheme, stressed how critical the informal sector was to ensure universal health coverage of the country.

On the informal sector of the scheme, he noted how market women, taxi drivers, artisans and other operators in the informal sector could be brought under groupings to ensure rapid and easy access to financial risk protection option against ill health.

But the Association has asked Buhari to get the Federal Government to be responsible for paying for the health insurance of the poor and vulnerable members of the society, as part of the launch of the informal sector scheme.

Owoka said: “What we are saying is that President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 launched the formal sector of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and that is how all the federal civil servants, all the para- military organizations, the Police are covered, and they are doing fine. The next thing we need to do is for President Muhammadu Buhari to launch the informal sector of the NHIS.

“Once he can launch the informal sector, with the formal sector that has been launched, the entire country would be covered. When you launch the informal sector, government will pay for the vulnerable and the poor.

“Sustainability will come in because contributors will be there. At the same time, those that the government wants to pay for will be there. And that will be something that we know that the President has come to do to deepen the health insurance and extend it to the common man.”

He explained further: “For now you will see that it is only those who can contribute that can sign on, because all organizations are free to sign on. But what government needs to do to help us further is to do what we call individual mandates. It has been done in developed countries.”

He urged government to champion a legislation to make health insurance compulsory for all Nigerians.On how the informal sector scheme could work, he noted: “The informal sector also includes market women. We can gather them together to form a group. We can do same for taxi drivers and such informal sector operators. They can be brought together to form groups and we have multiple groups depending on occupations and even based on where they live. Rural people can come together based on where they live and occupational people come together based on where they do their jobs.

“We are working on a retreat with the NHIS management to iron out all the gray areas in implementation of the scheme. We don’t need to look far to find good examples. Look at Asia, look at US, and look at Europe. We can borrow from t heir examples, and then conditionalize it to suit our own environment.”

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