Health Minister wants compulsory health insurance for Nigerians

... working with NASS on a new NHIS Act

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, is supporting the National Assembly to repeal and re-enact the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Act. Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Professor Adewole said this is necessary to guarantee greater efficiency at the NHIS, noting that the present Act has severe weaknesses which have led to recurring and ceaseless crises in the health insurance scheme.

Adewole specifically noted that the current act is flawed for making participation in the NHIS by Nigerians voluntary instead of compulsory and wants this to be changed in a much more comprehensive legislation. He also noted that the current act “gave too much power to the governing board.

I can tell you today that no Executive Secretary of NHIS has completed a full term in office without being sacked or suspended, apart from Mohammed Dogo, the pioneer executive secretary. So, it is not just about this administration.

We are asking the presidential panel to take a more holistic look at the NHIS, to review the Act of the scheme. The Act seems to have given so much power to the governing board.

The governing council, by that Act, was given the power to do whatever is necessary to keep the scheme running. If the council now thinks it is important to do anything to keep the scheme running, nobody can say no.

That is why we say the Act needs to be revised and be more specific. If you look closely, it is as if the council does almost everything there. The Act is one of the major issues with the scheme. Why NHIS has not covered majority of Nigerians, is because it is voluntary.”

When it is voluntary, it makes people not take it seriously. Our disposition- as Nigerians, we don’t take our health critical. We don’t even treat our body the way we treat our car.

When we wake up in the morning, you have a car you clean it up, you test the engine oil, you test the water level etc. Many people do not treat their body as well as they treat their cars.

When it comes to health, nobody wants to pay for health. We all want it free and that is why, for us to make it free, somebody has to pay for it. In the UK, the health insurance is there but it’s being funded, essentially, by taxation.

What we need to look at in NHIS is how do we put more money in health, put more resources together, to take care of everybody and ensure maximum coverage,” the minister explained

It would be called that the NHIS was last year enmeshed in a deep crisis of alleged corruption and disruptive power play between its Executive Secretary, Professor Usman Yusuf, and Governing Board. This led to the suspension of Professor Yusuf by the board, a suspension that was seen in some quarters as illegal, and which the Executive Secretary later defied by resuming under the cover of armed police security.

Professor Usman Yusuf – Executive Secretary, NHIS

Probably moved by increasing public commentaries and concerns about the happenings in the NHIS, President Muhammadu Buhari finally intervened by asking Yusuf to proceed on an ‘administrative leave’ and setting up a seven-member presidential panel to investigate all issues surrounding the board’s supposed suspension of the Executive Secretary. The presidential panel is chaired by Dr. Hassan Bukar, a former federal permanent secretary.

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