By Chioma Obinna
MORE than 11 years after the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, became operational in Nigeria, workers in the formal sector are yet to begin to contribute the required 1.7 per cent portion of the Consolidated Salary Structure.
Meanwhile, the National Orientation Agency, NOA and the NHIS have concluded plans to take the Scheme to the grassroots with a view to achieving Universal Health Coverage, UHC.
It could be recalled that health insurance in Nigeria has had a tortuous historical development from the first attempt in 1962 to the enactment of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) act 35 of 1999 and it became operational in 2005.
The General Manager, Contribution Management Department, NHIS, Mr. Attahiru A Ibrahim who disclosed this in Lagos said the Nigerian Labour Congress is yet to act on the issue.
Attahiru who was speaking during a 2-day retreat for National Orientation Agency, NOA, Directors on the NHIS for Quality Health care in Lagos last week, said at the moment only the 3.5 per cent contribution from the Federal Government’s was being used to keep the Scheme afloat.
“You will recall that since the commencement of the programme it has been contributory in nature. The Federal Government, the employers of labour contribute about 3.5 percent while the workers supposed to contribute about 1.7 percent of the consolidated Salary structure. But at it is now, it is only the Federal workers that are participating, even the 1.7 per cent they are supposed to contribute they have not really started contributing because labour has not really accepted that it should commence. But the Federal government has been paying its own contribution.”
Attahiru who further disclosed that at the moment not less than 4 million Nigerians, mostly in public services have been captured said the Scheme remains a prepaid programme and not free.
Attahiru who said the programme is currently being extended to state workers and Nigerians in the communities identified delay in most states from buying into the programme as a major challenge to the expansion of the programme.
“Health is on the concurrent list and because it is on the concurrent list, states are at liberty to design their own programmes as they wish. You cannot force any programme on the states. Some of the states has not embraced any of these programmes because they felt they don’t want to part with their money and put it on the Federal pool and that is why the NHIS keeps developing programmes
To ensure a robust coverage, he said NHIS now has community health programmes to ensure coverage for all Nigerians.
He said, the low awareness informed the latest collaboration of NHIS and NOA to use the orientation Agency’s wide reach with over 813 offices across the Federation to disseminate information about the scheme to Nigerians in all nooks and crannies of the country.
Also speaking, the Director -General, National Orientation Agency, NOA, Dr. Garba Abari, described the series as a needed collaborative effort of governmental agencies with similar objectives to expand the frontiers of their operations with a view to adding value to health services.
He explained that the retreat was to arm Directors of NOA with the workings, aims and objectives of NHIS with a view to taking them down to the lower levels of the society.
Abari stated that NOA involvement would make the Scheme better understood by Nigerians as well as enhance the number of enrolees and expose how affordable the programmes are.
“We have personnel that speaks all Nigerian languages. Our Community mobilisation officers are sourced within the local governments and information from them is regarded in the various communities.
“We are using NOA platform to sensitise, mobilise and advocate what NHIS is all about so that the strategic aim of government of making health accessible to the people is realised.”
He said to realise the objectives, NOA will be holding town hall meetings in all the local government areas of the country regularly as one of the most cost effective way of engaging Nigerians on government policies and programmes.
Abari said the meetings would bring together the entire spectrum of local society together such as the religious leaders , women groups, youth groups, cooperative societies, National association of chambers of commerce and industries where they exist, students, NYSC, security based organisations, community based organisations, civil society organisations among others.