Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has revealed that it has approached the federal government to approve an oil block to fund health insurance cover for indigent Nigerians.
NHIA, established to promote, regulate and integrate all Health Insurance schemes in Nigeria, also revealed that the subscriber base of the agency had hit over 15 million nationwide.
The Director General of NHIA, Prof. Mohammed Sambo revealed the proposal at the sixth annual conference of the health journalists in Akwanga, Nasarawa on Friday
Speaking on the alternative funding for the agency, Sambo: “You can’t have universal health coverage without making it compulsory. The Act gives hope to 83 million vulnerable Nigerians that cannot afford to pay for healthcare.”
Sambo, represented by the Public Affairs Manager of NHIA, Emmanuel Ononokpono, questioned why the government could not allocate at least an oil block to the 83 million vulnerable to fund health insurance in the country.
He said: “If the government could give oil blocks to individuals, why can’t it give to 83 million vulnerable Nigerians? A retired General told us some time ago how he sold his oil block for $500 million.”
He said the agency “has also employed no fewer than 190 health professionals to boost operations since his appointment in 2019.
“In the past, NHIS offices had just one nurse. This means that the man who read History or Mass Communication would be the one to access the hospital to tell whether this is a stethoscope or not and that worsened the situation at that time.
“So, Sambo had to find a way and engage in a very transparent manner 190 medical persons, five in each state across Nigeria, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and (medical) laboratory scientists.
“Now, we don’t have to send people from the head office to go to the states to conduct quality assurance again; the state offices can handle it.”
Sambo narrated how politicking and wrangling almost consumed the agency under his predecessors, resulting in the public losing confidence in the organization.
He also pointed out that the former NHIS could not build offices in any part of the country, making it pay rent for its 38 offices nationwide.
According to the director general, we were deploying ICT equipment. Whenever the house owners said we should go, we must dismantle those things and move with them.
He also said the government did not audit the NHIA account for five years before he took over in 2019 because of a crisis.
He disclosed that every chief executive of the agency tried to change the NHIS Act to make health insurance compulsory in the country, but they didn’t succeed and his efforts to change the NHIS Act succeeded after three attempts.
In his remarks, the President of ANHEJ, Mallam Hassan Zaggi called on the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to work hard and present to Nigerians different affordable models that will enable them to enroll in health insurance.
Zaggi also announced that the Association of Nigeria of Health Journalists has concluded plans to launch health insurance for its members next month.
He disclosed that the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) has committed to support the Association to achieve this.
“For the first phase, we are considering enrolling up to 50 health journalists. The selection process will be very stringent with performance as one of the criteria for enrolment.”
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NHIA Seeks Dedicated Oil Bloc to Fund Health Insurance for Indigent Nigerians – THISDAY Newspapers
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja