The Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Authority, Professor Mohammed Sambo say efficient health insurance is key to driving health outcomes.
He said this at the Health Financing Policy Dialogue forum held in Abuja on Friday with the theme, ‘Accelerating the Implementation of NHIA Act to Improve Health Insurance Coverage in Nigeria’.
According to him, there is a strong link between health, productivity and socio-economic development.
Prof. Sambo said that government has a critical role to play in accelerating NHIA implementation by providing adequate funding, and stressed the need to strengthen the governance structure and create an enabling environment for health insurance to thrive.
The NHIA boss said that health financing was incomplete without considering the level of socio-economic development of a country.
He reiterated that a country cannot finance health insurance without thinking about innovative ways outside the traditional ways.
“We owe it to ourselves and our fellow Nigerians to develop and maintain the health system that we desire both now and in the future.
“All stakeholders within and outside the health sector must work together to improve health insurance in the country,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria must develop relevant policies to ensure the effective utilisation of available resources to ensure equitable access to basic healthcare services that leave no one behind.
Also, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, said an efficient health insurance system remains a crucial mean of achieving Universal Health Coverage in the country.
He said this while presenting a paper on ‘Exploring Innovative Health Financing Mechanisms for the Vulnerable Group Fund’, adding that it must include a system for the vulnerable population in the country.
Akabueze said there was a need for innovative financing mechanisms, especially for those with limited or no means of paying premiums in the country.
According to him, we need reforms or changes in the application of conventional financing sources and introduce systems that can help improve the use of the fund.
Akabueze lamented that financial constraint has remained a barrier to adequate provision for health insurance coverage in most developing countries including Nigeria.
He said that limited budgets from governments and donors have greatly impacted health funding, including the provision for insurance.
“In spite of continuous efforts to rationalise public expenditures, we must keep our eyes on value for money, if we don’t, we will lose public enthusiasm.
“There must be accountability and transparency in implementing health insurance,” he said.
Also, the General Manager, NHIA, Blessing Nienge said since the NHIA Act came into existence in May 2022, a lot of effort had gone into developing a sustainable framework for implementing mandatory health insurance in Nigeria.
She said this was necessary so that the country would ensure that no one was left behind.
Nienge said that countries implementing mandatory health insurance were moving towards achieving UHC, adding that Nigeria must move quickly to close the gaps and improve health insurance in the country.
Earlier, the Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu, said that the country had made significant progress on its route to achieving health for all.
“The signing of the NHIA into law which ensured mandatory health insurance for all Nigerians was the right step to boost the journey,” she added.
Ihekweazu said that NHIA was established as part of the country’s efforts to achieve UHC and ensure that Nigerians have access to basic healthcare services, regardless of their income level.
She said this would protect them from the high cost of healthcare services.
Ihekweazu said the implementation of the scheme has been slow, with less than five per cent of the population covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme as of 2018.
She said this had left millions of Nigerians without access to quality and accessible healthcare.
Ihekweazu said the non-compulsory nature of the Act and poverty were cited as factors that contributed to the slow progress and challenges faced by the scheme.
“Weak governance structures, poor healthcare infrastructure and more made it difficult for the scheme to achieve its goals.
“To bridge these gaps in the scheme, the NHIA Act was passed into law, making health insurance mandatory for every Nigerian and legal resident.
“This is authorising NHIA to improve and leverage private sector participation in the provision of healthcare services,” she said.
According to Ihekweazu, the operationalisation of the NHIA is a critical step towards reducing catastrophic out-of-pocket expenditure and achieving UHC in the country.
She said this was expected to improve access to quality healthcare services for all Nigerians, particularly vulnerable and marginalised populations in the country.
“Uptake of health insurance hinges on effective communications to relevant stakeholders, especially the public who need to understand the benefits of having health insurance and the need to enrol in the scheme,” she said.
NAN reports that the consultative forum brought together key stakeholders, including government at the national and sub-national level, healthcare providers, civil society organisations, the private sector, development partners and the media.
The forum also discussed challenges and opportunities in implementing the NHIA Act and developing strategies to accelerate its implementation.
The policy dialogue provided a platform for stakeholders to share their experiences, insights, and perspectives on NHIA implementation in the country.
It also provided an opportunity to identify key challenges facing NHIA implementation and develop strategies to address them.