Enugu Govt urges NHIS to strengthen healthcare services

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Enugu State government has urged the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS ) in the state to “work closely with relevant  agencies of the state government” towards achieving a great mileage for the health insurance scheme in the state and the South-East zone. 

The deputy  governor, Mrs  Cecilia Ezeilo,  made the call when she received in audience, the South East Zonal Coordinator and top officials of the National Health Insurance Scheme, South East Zone, who paid him courtesy call on Wednesday in his office.

The deputy governor, who represented Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, noted that “The system of public health insurance insures the covered population against the costs of healthcare. Established by either national or subnational legislation or both , it aims at raising and maintaining a pool of funds for providing either health services to the covered population  or the means to acquire them with the end goal of improving health outcomes”.

She said that “in Nigeria, the health insurance scheme has come with a  combination of government funding  and a requirement that all citizens purchased private health insurance. Since the formal establishment of the national health insurance scheme in Nigeria in 1990 and it’s launching in 2005, it has been  considered a source of health financing towards universal health coverage(UHC), which has been described by the World  Health Organisation(WHO) as a situation where citizens can  access health services without incurring financing hardship 

“UHC is now a part of Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) under which UN member States, including Nigeria have agreed to work towards worldwide universal health coverage by 2030. One of its key goals is to  create a system of protection which provided equality of opportunity for people to enjoy the highest possible level of healthcare.

“In Enugu State, the Health Sector Reform Law of 2017 ushered in and  laid out the framework pf the concept of  universal  health  coverage  in the  State  culminating in the creation of the Enugu State Agency for  Universal  Health  Coverage (ESA-UHC) with the  mandate to introduce and operate a State health insurance scheme for all residents of the State that  must  be cost- effective and efficient.” Ezeilo said.

She said that “the agency (ESA-UHO) started operating in the last quarter of 2019 with a take-off grant of N200 million in addition to budgetary allocations. 

According to  her, “The agency has since commenced enrolment of beneficiaries at 45 primary healthcare facilities that were provisionally accredited for service  provision under the insurance scheme. As of  date. over ten thousand people have been enrolled in these facilities. Of these, about 4,500 are children below the age of five years and pregnant women, a category of enrollees covered by the State’s Free Material and Child Health Programme (FMCHP) and  therefore are not required to pay the health insurance premium. While the agency is working on perfecting a system for premium collection it is also striving to satisfy the criteria for receipt of fund from the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF).

” The State’s health law of 2017 also created a Equity Fund through which the vulnerable can access healthcare under the scheme. The fund is also designed to act as a buffer to individual  contributions thereby, increasing the pool official resources and ensuring viability of the universal health coverage scheme, she said.

The deputy governor noted that “public health insurance for all residents is a major pillar of the health program of  the Ugwuanyi  administration over which it is also eager and willing to receive  the collaboration and support of   your agency. 

“As a government, we would gladly welcome every assistance aimed at strengthening and further developing  the healthcare system in the State. So, as you  settle down to your duties in Zone, do please aim at working closely with the relevant agencies of the State government towards achieving  a great mileage for health insurance  scheme in the’ State and the zone, ” she said.

 Earlier, the Zonal coordinator of NHIS, Mrs Patricia Oviawe  told the Deputy governor that  she  was posted newly to the zone and had come to pay the governor, the customary homage..
She said that the NHIS Act has problem and they agreed to get the state to run  the health insurance which some states had done is access fully the basic  healthcare provision fund. “They still need equity funding. They preferred to have it full, so that the whole process run from the federal government to the local government. “.

The zonal coordinator said that NHIS would be there to give technical support to relevant agencies in the state. She appealed for assistance from the State Government to allow for smooth running of the office in Enugu.

In a remark, the Executive secretary said that they had been working well with the NHIS, noting that whenever  there is a new programme, there are always challenges. She thanked the state government for it’s support, saying that today they are on the same level with some states in the South-East zone.

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