The National Health Insurance Act (Amendment) 2021, recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, requires that, as from this week, telecommunications facility users would pay a further one kobo for each second of calls with a view to fund healthcare for the indigent and vulnerable Nigerians. It is a positive development for the healthcare sector and for poor Nigerians who cannot afford the pay for common ailments. Called the Vulnerable Group Fund, the scheme will provide subsidised healthcare to children under five, pregnant women, the aged, the physically and mentally challenged and the indigent as could also be defined on occasion.
Medical health insurance is now a worldwide strategy for spreading the risks of incurring health care costs over a gaggle of people and households. The importance of medical health insurance includes resource mobilisation and risk-sharing. The brand new funding arrangement will make it possible to build up more funds from the identified sources to offer healthcare for the vulnerable. Under the present arrangement, every resident in Nigeria is predicted to acquire medical health insurance. Under the initial Act signed into law in 2005, nearly all of Nigerians, mainly those that should not federal civil servants, didn’t have access to health under that scheme. With the dysfunctional primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare provision within the country and the dearth of access to medical health insurance, nearly all of Nigerians pay their medical bills out-of-pocket, a really difficult and burdensome way of financing their healthcare. Everywhere in the developed world, this burden is lifted through medical health insurance to cushion the persistent underfunding within the sector.
It is predicted that as much as N90.04 billion will likely be generated annually from this recent task. All things being equal, with funds harnessed from other sources of contributions to the Vulnerable Group Fund, truly vulnerable Nigerians must have access to a measure of healthcare easier than they do in the intervening time. In keeping with the revised Act, other sources of funding for the Vulnerable Group medical health insurance include a basic healthcare provision fund to the authority; medical health insurance levy; telecommunications tax; money which may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the federal government; money that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and some other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.
Healthcare within the country has been tormented by several aspects, amongst them poor political will or the dearth of commitment to effective healthcare delivery by the federal government. Other shortcomings of the sector include dependence on international donor agencies, poor management of resources, corruption, misappropriation of allocated funds and even gross under-funding. On the state level, governments fail to release funds allocated to healthcare, despite funds made available from the federal government. Through the years, several state governments had provide you with community or rural medical health insurance schemes, to be certain that Nigerians in rural communities contribute a certain quantity of cash per household to spread the health risk among the many member communities. The concept failed resulting from the dearth of commitment by the federal government, and maybe, doubts on the a part of the people. It’s on this context that the present tax might be considered a masterstroke.
Nonetheless, for the scheme to succeed, the federal government must learn quite a lot of lessons from the shortcomings of the present medical health insurance scheme, which is grossly ineffective. If not fastidiously handled, the Vulnerable Group Fund would create one other institution or bureaucracy within the health sector, making funds available to few individuals for self-aggrandisement. That will likely be very unlucky. Health indicators in Nigeria, in keeping with the World Health Organisation (WHO), are very poor. As an illustration, neonatal mortality is put at 24.7 of each 1000 live births; the under-5 mortality rate (variety of newborn babies who die before they reach age 5) is put at 104 per 1000 live births; the maternal mortality rate is 804 for each 100,000 live births; and most ladies give birth without being attended to by expert health professionals. These are totally different from inadequate medical personnel and equipment, which cause deaths from common ailments like malaria. We still lack specialised medical personnel for deadly but rampant ailments like cancer, stroke, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. If this recent tax is applied with transparency and accountability, these indicators will likely be worn out. We support the brand new tax regime, but we warn that it must not be become one other channel for corruption. Government should seek the assistance of experts to guide it through the method. A monitoring mechanism have to be arrange to make sure checks and balances. That is indeed a recent dawn for health care and the chance for healthcare for Nigerians, especially the masses must not be lost. Subsequently, all hands have to be on deck to make this work.