By Chioma Obinna
Healthcare providers have warned that unless the current state of health financing in Nigeria is reversed the journey to the planned Universal Healthcare Coverage, UHC, for all Nigerians may remain a mirage. Issuing the warning in Lagos under the auspices of Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria, HCPAN, they called for immediate review of the system.
In her lecture entitled: “Universal Health Insurance Coverage: The Role of Healthcare Providers”, a Consultant Public Health Physician, Dr. Adenike Olaniba said with less than 5 percent of the Nigerian population insured under the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, there is need for immediate review of the NHIS Act 35 of 1999 to make it mandatory to all citizens of Nigeria to sign up under the scheme.
Olaniba who is the former Medical Director, Mainland Hospital, Yaba, and erstwhile President, HCPAN, said the existing structure of health financing in Nigeria will not enable achievement of desired health outcomes in a country where healthcare spending per head is $67. “WHO report shows that South Africa spends seven times more while Angola spends three times more than Nigeria. In the US, healthcare spend is $7,000 per head and $6,000 per head in Switzerland. Currently, 59 percent of Nigerians pay for healthcare out-of-pocket.
Olaniba who spoke at the 2016 HCPAN’s Mid- Year Capacity Building Meeting in Lagos said Political leaders at all levels should know that “health is wealth” and they should have long-term commitment to increasing health spending whilst at the same time explore innovative health financing mechanisms. “The health indices in Nigeria are poor and need to be improved. Nigeria has the eighth-lowest life expectancy at birth and one of the highest maternal mortalities in the world. Though we have the largest economy in Africa, yet only 3.5 per cent of our 2016 budget is given to health. That is a serious issue with funding.
“To ensure equity in the distribution of enrollees NHIS should put a peg on the maximum number of enrollees per facility e.g. 5000, so that all accredited providers can participate in the scheme.” On his part, the Chairman, Lagos State, HCPAN, Dr. Ademola Aina, explained that the capacity building meeting was for all health professionals to harness strategies to ensure universal health coverage for all because as professionals health insurance is the only way by which everybody whether rich or poor can have access to health.