The executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Prof. Mohammed Sambo has highlighted the critical role of health insurance in driving health outcomes and its strong connection to productivity and socioeconomic development.
Sambo made this statement at a recent health financing policy dialogue forum in Abuja.
The forum, titled “Accelerating the Implementation of the NHIA Act to Improve Health Insurance Coverage in Nigeria,” shed light on the importance of government support, adequate funding, strengthened governance structures and a conducive environment for the NHIA to flourish.
Sambo emphasised that health financing should consider a country’s level of socioeconomic development, and Nigeria cannot rely solely on traditional methods but must explore innovative approaches. He stressed the collective responsibility of all stakeholders, both within and outside the health sector, to collaborate and improve health insurance coverage in the country. Developing relevant policies and optimising available resources is crucial to ensure equitable access to essential healthcare services, leaving no one behind.
During the forum, the director-general of the Budget Office of the Federation (BoF), Mr. Ben Akabueze discussed the need for innovative health financing mechanisms to cater to vulnerable groups in the country. He acknowledged the financial constraints that hinder adequate health insurance coverage in developing nations like Nigeria, where limited budgets from governments and donors have impacted healthcare funding. Akabueze emphasised the importance of implementing accountable and transparent systems to maintain public enthusiasm and ensure value for money in healthcare provision.
The general manager of NHIA, Barr. Blessing Nienge highlighted the efforts made since the signing of the NHIA Act in May 2022 to establish a reliable and sustainable framework for mandatory health insurance. She emphasized the role of mandatory health insurance in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and emphasised the need to bridge gaps and improve health insurance coverage swiftly.
The managing director of Nigeria Health Watch, Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu commended the country’s progress in striving for health for all. She acknowledged the significance of the NHIA Act in providing mandatory health insurance to all Nigerians, protecting them from the high cost of healthcare services.
However, she noted the slow implementation of the scheme, with less than five per cent of the population covered as of 2018. Factors such as the non-compulsory nature of the Act and poverty contributed to these challenges. The NHIA Act, passed in May 2022, aimed to address these gaps by making health insurance mandatory for every Nigerian and authorising the NHIA to improve healthcare provision through private sector participation.
Ihekweazu emphasised the critical role of effective communication in promoting health insurance uptake among the public. Ensuring that people understand the benefits of health insurance and the importance of enrolling in the scheme is key to its success.
The consultative forum brought together various stakeholders, including the national and sub-national governments, healthcare providers, civil society organizations, the private sector, development partners, and the media. It provided a platform for sharing experiences, insights, and perspectives on NHIA implementation in Nigeria. The discussions centred on identifying challenges, exploring opportunities and developing strategies to accelerate the implementation of the NHIA Act.