By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
The federal government, on Monday, inaugurated a committee on the provision of health insurance for retirees and the elderly in the country.
The committee, headed by the former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Linus Awute, according to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who inaugurated it, was to “examine options for the provision of health insurance for retirees and the elderly in Nigeria.”
“It underscores the resolve and commitment of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to improve access to healthcare and promote the wellbeing of ageing citizens of our country through provision of health insurance,” he said.
The minister said:”The President subscribes to the view that Elders who have served their country be treated with respect and dignity and commits to investing in older persons in recognition of the contribution they continue to make to family, community, and nation. This aligns with global best practices in health care for older persons.”
“Older persons with intergeneration links are a force for socio-economic growth with institutional memory and experience to shepherd Youths and advise on growth opportunities. Health and well-being are crucial to older persons’ independence and autonomy and critical to maintaining inclusion and participation in community affairs,” he added.
He commended the collaborative efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Scheme in ensuring a timely and successful inauguration of the committee.
“This event is not without the support of development partners and relevant stakeholders,” he said, adding:”I shall inaugurate this committee, as part of Mr. President’s commitment to improving the quality of care of the elderly through the provision of health insurance.”
Describing the event as an “important and overdue national assignment”, the minister recalled that “Nigeria is a signatory to many global commitments on health, a particular one of which is the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage for healthier lives and wellbeing of citizens of all ages.”
Noting that,”The elderly and retirees of 60 years and above, make up 6 to 7 percent, being 15 million out of Nigeria’s population, and the size of some countries”, Ehanire said:
“The elderly may be facing glaring health challenges, over and beyond the wear and year of aging, and additional strain from financial challenges and psycho-social issues of adjusting to a retiree’s life. Sooner of later, problems of cognition set in slowly.”
“The covd-19 pandemic has made it obvious that about 60–80% of older persons have pre-existing medical conditions requiring regular medications,” he regretted
“Depending solely on a pension allowance that is barely enough to meet basic household needs, they experience an extra burden that defeats the essence of pension and may fall into depression,” he said, adding that:”We are here today 30th November 2020 for an activity that could bring help to the elderly in our society.”
The committee’s terms of reference, according to the minister, are:”To assess the current situation of health insurance coverage and access to health care for retirees and senior citizens (over 60 years) in Nigeria;
To develop a national framework for the effective health insurance coverage of retirees and senior citizens and to make recommendations to the Minister of Health on the potential resource mobilization as well as other mechanisms for the successful implementation of the framework.”
Others are:”To undertake any other activity that will facilitate the health insurance coverage of retirees and senior citizens in Nigeria and to recommend Technical Sub–Committee to be constituted from the main committee.
The minister said,”Nobody could be better placed” for the committee as chairman than Mr Linus Awute, a seasoned, now retired former Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Health.
Other members of the committee are Prof. Muhammad Nasiru Sambo,
Executive Secretary NHIS who is the Co-Chairman; the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development; the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare and Pension, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, Director of Family Health, Federal Ministry of Health among others.