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Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

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Nigerian News » Politics

NEWS Senate to make NHIS compulsory for Nigerians, engages stakeholders

The Senate has expressed its readiness to make health insurance compulsory for all Nigerians in the ongoing amendment of the National Health Insurance Scheme Act.

Senate Committee on Health, on Wednesday, held a public hearing on the amendment, which was attended by the representatives of public and private health institutions, regulatory and professional bodies as well as labour and trade unions.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, in his opening speech, said the public hearing was on the bill seeking to repeal the National Health Insurance Scheme Act and enact the National Health Insurance Commission Bill 2017.

He said, “The bill for discourse today seeks to repeal the National Insurance Scheme Act and to enact the National Health Insurance Commission Act to ensure a more effective implementation of a health insurance policy that enhances greater access to health care services by all Nigerians; as well as to ensure the provision and effectively regulate health insurance schemes in Nigeria.”

Tejuoso decried that Nigeria’s health indices, from the National Demographic Health Surveys, had not been encouraging and the need for health care reforms had become more expedient.

He said, “Data from the NDHS conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics reveal a grim outlook for the health sector. For instance, about 900,000 children and mothers die each year in Nigeria to the extent that there has been almost no progress in reducing maternal mortality and childhood malnutrition is worsening.

“It is no news that Nigeria contributed 14 per cent of all maternal deaths globally, second only to India at 17 per cent; neither is it surprising that Nigeria contributes 13 per cent of all under-five deaths globally, again second only to India at 21 per cent. This is not acceptable and we need to begin to reverse this trend. It is now clear that the need for health care reforms is very necessary.”

The lawmaker noted that most countries were striving to evolve and maintain accessible and affordable health care for their citizens, irrespective of the people’s economic statuses.

He added, “However, there is the need to translate these policy commitments to quality and affordable healthcare service delivery for the common man. Health insurance has emerged as an important financing mechanism to finance the healthcare needs of the people.

“The uncertainty of disease or illness has accentuated the need for insurance and it works on certain fundamental principles: the principle of cross-subsidisation and solidarity, where the rich support the poor, the well support the sick and the haves support the have-nots. This can only be achieved through making insurance mandatory and subsidisation for those unable to afford insurance premiums.”

The Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who represented the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, at the event, describe the gathering as the largest for a public hearing in two years.

“In my two-year stay in this Senate, this is the largest gathering I gave seen at a public hearing for the purpose of deliberating on a very important bill. It gives me hope that we are beginning to understand the fact that the only available way out for all of us as a people is to come together and be our brother’s keeper,” he said.

In the speech delivered by Na’Allah, Saraki criticised the NHIS as not performing maximally for the benefit of Nigerians as it was currently structured.

He said, “The National Health Insurance Scheme was conceived to abolish the ‘cash and carry’ system of healthcare delivery which provides treatment only when patients pay for services. However, 13 years down the line, we can sincerely admit that the aims of the programme have not been fully achieved.”
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