NAMed advocate improved health insurance services

by Fred Ezeh Abuja

The Nigerian Academy of Medicine (NAMed) has linked the poor health services Nigerians “enjoy” to poor health insurance services, which forces millions of Nigerians to pay for health services out of their own pocket.

The Academy insisted that due to the attitude of Nigerian political leaders and the state of the economy alone, the government cannot afford to provide adequate funding for health services, hence the need for adequate and efficient compulsory health insurance services for Nigerians.

NAMed President Prof. Sam Ohaegbulam, in his remarks after being sworn in as Pioneer President of the Academy in Abuja, cited the examples of countries primarily in North Africa and Europe that have developed and implemented an efficient and effective compulsory health insurance system for the kilometers they cover on quality and affordable health services for the people.

Prof Ohaegbulam said: “I have used all the avenues at my disposal to address the issue of National Health Insurance Services because I believe part of the challenges we face in delivering quality health services is poor funding and the Health insurance is the only answer to this challenge.

“Health insurance is largely the answer to Nigeria’s poor healthcare. Without mandatory successful health insurance, Nigeria cannot generate enough revenue to meet the health challenges faced by its population. When someone cannot pay the health insurance premium, instead of paying and spending millions of naira on surgeries, government or family members can help instead of enrolling in health insurance to get the services at a reduced cost.

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“Obviously we do not have sufficient resources to fund the health services in Nigeria. To dramatize this, the federal government’s healthcare budget for 2022 is N195 billion. That’s very poor. The Research Institute of Massachusetts hospital in the US has a budget of $1 billion. Imagine what the entire hospital will have as a budget.

“In 2014 there was a publication on the top 10 African countries to invest in terms of health and Nigeria was second on the list alongside South Africa. But in the most recent release, released in 2021, Nigeria felt completely out. Egypt moved up from sixth to first place and this was because it embraced an efficient health insurance system.

“Obviously, North African countries excel in health insurance services and that is why they offer better quality health services to their citizens. Undeniably we have health insurance in Nigeria but it is not as efficient as it should be.”

He therefore urged NAMed members to take on that responsibility to ensure the system works. “We can blame and blame politicians for as long as we like, but we have our own roles to play as key stakeholders in the healthcare sector.”

However, he recognized the long efforts of members of the National Assembly and other stakeholders, which culminated in the signing of the new National Health Insurance Act (NHIA), and called for accelerated action in implementing the new NHIA law so more people would join the pool and enjoy quality and affordable healthcare services without paying out of your own pocket.

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As the founder of Memfy Neurosurgeon Hospital Enugu, Prof Ohaegbulam said people spend their hard-earned savings to seek health, but that could improve if there are efficient and effective compulsory health insurance services.

Meanwhile, Professor Emeritus Nimi Briggs, in a talk titled 2023 and Beyond: Setting the Health Agenda, highlighted the steps that need to be taken to salvage Nigeria’s health from its declining state.

He accused the elites in Nigeria of being partly responsible for the failing health system in Nigeria. “Many Nigerians, particularly the elite, despise the public health system and would rather not patronize it except as a last resort in serious emergencies.

“From issues with lack of equipment, dilapidated buildings and infrastructure, to dirty environment, poor utility services, long delays in service delivery, frustrated and unfriendly staff with poor work ethics, and more, Nigerians have always expressed their dissatisfaction and disapproval with the state public health system at all times.”

He commissioned NAMed to champion a cause that would herald a turn for the better in Nigeria’s public health system, so that both elites and other Nigerians could confidently support the system.