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Coercive approach is best for health insurance – Simbo Okiri, MD/CEO, Avon HMO

SINCE its formal launch in Lagos recently, Avon Healthcare Ltd., a Health Maintenance Organisation, has strived to widen the scope and availability of affordable health insurance in Nigeria. In this chat with SOLA OGUNDIPE, the outfit’s MD/CEO, Mrs. Simbo Ukiri argues that one of the was to ensure universal health coverage is to make health insurance compulsory. Excerpts:

UNIVERSAL coverage: One issue that we have identified within the Nigerian health system is the lack of information and awareness about health insurance. Level of awareness and education is lacking. Technology is also lacking. There is need for engagement across all stakeholdersWe believe that the benefits of health insurance and being part of a health insurance scheme, is one that most Nigerians do not know about.

One of the first things we need to do to resolve this, is to be part of the wave that educates Nigerians and bring awareness to them that health insurance exists, works and delivers as promised. It is to let Nigerians know that health insurance has real, measurable benefits for every body and everyone should subscribe to it.

Avon Cover: Under the Avon cover, there are a variety of plans for every part of the Nigerian society. People should imagine quality of health care that is seamless and accessible with ease and convenience. It is one that assures you that your health plans are going to be met based on the health plan you have chosen from our portfolio of offerings.

Approach to health plans: The coercive approach is more effective because if left to people’s discretion, as a country and people we tend to believe the worst will never happen to us. Which is a good way of thinking, but at the end of the day when these unplanned illnesses and situations occur, many of us suffer greatly. Most companies cannot afford to meet the health bills of their staff who come down with chronic ailments and illnesses.

There are instances in which the companies have to let such people go, or the people themselves cannot return to work; the ailment gets worse and the affected persons even lose their lives.

So if there is legislation to make Health insurance compulsory, and employers of labour begin to see that health insurance – just like pension – is something that has legislative backing, then that will also help to improve universal coverage.

Avon accredited health provider: A typical Avon accredited health provider, can be anywhere in the country, it will have hospital premises that will have a doctor in attendance for the whole day and a doctor within call overnight.

It will have a well equipped theatre, one or two specilalists, an obstetrician and gynaecologist as well as physicians who can attend to people with diabetes and hypertension.

At the end of the day, what drives healthcare usage are chronic ailments such as hypertension and diabetes and maternal and child healthcare. We want to have specialist within reach.

The hospital will have internet, well structured quality assurance tools in place that we can verify from time to time. We believe technology will achieve a key role in enabling Nigeria attain universal coverage.

The first step is to ensure that the system works, and that it has the necessary skills and there are facilities. We have to be able to pay for the right services and make investments in the system.

Task before Avon: Our task in Avon is simple. We want to ensure that Nigerians from all walks of life have access to affordable and adequate health care, without facing financial obstacles when they need to attend to their health. We will ensure that there is a plan for everyone, no matter the social strata they belong to.

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