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FG committed to scaling up Universal Health Coverage via NHIS – Minister

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Wednesday, reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to scale up Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country through National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

UHC means that all people and communities can use the preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need and ensuring
that the use of these services does not expose the users to financial hardship.

Ehanire said this at the opening of a Strategic Stakeholders Meeting with Donors and Implementing Partners in Abuja, organised by NHIS.

Represented by Dr Joseph Amedu, the Director of Hospital Services in the ministry, the minister said that the ministry was committed to implementing various health initiatives in the country.

He added that “the implementation of mandatory NHIS to achieve UHC is very important.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is also scaling up the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), in collaboration with state governments.

“This is to ensure the attainment of UHC and to address human resources gap in the facility we have.

“The ministry is also tasked to revive federal health institutions across the country to provide quality services to citizens.”

He added that the ministry was working toward revamping tertiary healthcare services across the country, including active coordination with private sector for the attainment of huge positive results.

Ehanire noted that the ministry was also working toward establishing functional and responsive emergency medical services across the country to ensure that emergencies were properly taken care of.

He restated government’s commitment to continue with efforts aimed at strengthening partnerships, as well as broadening stakeholder’s participation.

He said that the government would continue to broaden stakeholders’ participation in various engagements to improve the capacity of Nigerians to create socio-economic values and live in acceptable conditions of life.

Ehanire expressed optimism that the meeting would provide an opportunity for partners to evaluate and assess the strategic vision and direction of NHIS, especially in terms of capacity development and specific funding support with due regards for the core mandate of each partner.

He said “I, therefore, urge you to use this opportunity to develop the relevant framework, parameters and sustainable coordination mechanism
that would ensure that we got value for every effort to position NHIS properly for the attainment of UHC in Nigeria.”

The Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Mohammed Sambo, told stakeholders at the meeting that the organisation had commenced the implementation of BHCPF to expand healthcare coverage in the country.

Sambo said “you would recall that recently, the scheme, in collaboration, with Federal Ministry of Health and state governments commenced the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) to extend and expand healthcare to all Nigerians, especially the vulnerable segment of the population.

“This is in line with the provision of the National Health Act signed into law in 2014.

“To that end, about N6.5 billion had already been disbursed for the NHIS gateway to about 15 states who fulfilled the criteria for the implementation of BHCPF, as outlined by the Steering Committee.

“This development opened a new vista in our quest toward the attainment of UHC, which is currently the core mandate of NHIS.”

The executive secretary, who noted that state governments would require the intervention of development partners to boost health coverage,
urged such partners to study the matrix of implementing health insurance, with a view to intervening in ICT, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building and human development and quality control.

According to him, NHIS has identified a three-point agenda to addressing some of the challenges of the scheme.

He said “the three-point agenda rests on following planks of reforms: restoring value system that will transform NHIS into credible result-driven organisation, engendering transparency and accountability in its operations and accelerating the drive toward achieving access to quality healthcare for Nigerians.

Dr Francis Ukwuije, the Health Economist with World Health Organisation (WHO), said NHIS was critical to achieving UHC.

Ukwuije, who spoke on behalf of the UN system in Nigeria and development partners, said “for any country to achieve UHC, adequate measures
must be taken on population coverage, service coverage and cost coverage.

“Interestingly, none of these can be achieved without NHIS. This shows us how important the insurance agency is in achieving UHC in Nigeria.”

He expressed dissatisfaction over increase in out-of-pocket expenditure for treatment.

He said “it is sad that out of pocket expenditure in Nigeria is still high, according to result of health account study from 2016 to 2017.

“Out of pocket expenditure moved from 72 per cent to 76 per cent during that period, showing that a lot of people could become poor due to ill health.”

He, however, expressed hope that NHIS would reverse the trend through collaboration with states to enroll more Nigerians into the State Health Insurance Scheme