Members of the National Assembly in Nigeria are asking for the removal of funds belonging to the National Health Insurance scheme from the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account to enable the scheme achieve its desired purpose of providing healthcare for the citizens.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuoso and a member of the House committee on Health, Mohammed Usman, made the request at a three-day National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) management Retreat holding in Kaduna State, northwest Nigeria.
The lawmakers, who argued that the NHIS fund was a contributory fund meant to provide healthcare service to civil servants in times of needs, said that the idea of channelling such fund into the Treasury Single Account would create bottleneck and affect service delivery.
They also stated that the scheme had failed to impact positively on the health of Nigerians due to inefficiency by Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs).
On his part, the Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Professor Usman Yusuf, explained that the agency had the capacity of providing universal healthcare for all Nigerians if only it was able to deal with the challenges of endemic corruption, inefficiency and political patronage in the system.
At the retreat were top management staff of the NHIS, HMOs, workers and lawmakers.
They are considering the theme: “Repositioning the National Health Insurance Scheme towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria”.
The essence of the gathering is to reappraise their operations to know if actually the core mandate of providing affordable healthcare for the citizens has been achieved.
While stating that his mandate at the agency is to achieve universal healthcare coverage for all Nigerians, Professor Yusuf warned that his office would delist any HMO found indulging in any unwholesome practice
Failure Of Regulator
Declaring the retreat open earlier, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who was represented by his Commissioner for Health, Dr Paul Dogo, pointed out that most past and present healthcare interventions in Nigeria were not reaching the people due to financial impediments and other human factors.
He suggested that the government must first of all deal with the challenge of financial barrier in order to enable the citizens have access to affordable healthcare.
The Governor’s representative also announced that administration would soon launch State Universal Health Insurance Scheme that would cater for the health needs of citizens of the state irrespective of class
In an interview, the Chairman of the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria, Dr Kolawole Owoka, told reporters that the failure of the regulator was responsible for the state of the scheme in Nigeria.
For Usman and Tejuoso, an increase in the allocation for the health sector in the 2017 and removal of all barriers to effective funding of the health sector, remain paramount for the sustenance and expansion of the scheme.
Access to equitable, affordable and qualitative healthcare by Nigerians has been a pipe dream, largely due to skewed distribution of healthcare facilities in favour of urban areas, uneven distribution of wealth and inadequate budget for healthcare.
It is expected that participants at the retreat would come up with sound policies and ideas that would help in ensuring a maximum coverage of qualitative and affordable healthcare for the citizenry.