Universal health coverage: Mamora pins equitable access on partnerships

Nigeria’s goal to leverage universal health coverage to ensure equitable access to quality care and reduce out-of-pocket expenses could be realised faster with public and private sector partnerships, Olorunnnimbe Mamora, the minister of state for Health has said.

He said the partnership between the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and health maintenance organisations (HMOs) needs to be strengthened with the inclusion of community-based health intervention schemes in order to improve the well-being of the majority of the population.

According to the minister, health insurance for all is inevitable in the government’s mandate to distribute healthcare equitably. The country requires a health system that encourages people to access facilities early in any disease condition as the government strives to improve key areas of policy, financing, information management, leadership, and governance.

“Our goal in healthcare strengthening is to achieve universal health coverage for our teeming population. We recognize the absence of social security for vulnerable groups and inadequate funding. The government is aware and measures are being put in place to mitigate these inequities, Mamora said speaking at a stakeholder’s engagement convened by Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc.

In strengthening healthcare, Eddie Efekoha, chairman, Hallmark Health Services said adequacy of health facilities, equipment and accessibility by the general populace should be prioritised. He equally called for improved financing, professionalism and capacity-building opportunities for health workers to boost their practice.

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As a private player, one of the ways it has fielded gaps in healthcare coverage is to introduce plans tailored to suit the needs of corporate bodies and individuals.

It is widening access for the less privileged through community-based health insurance schemes and partnerships with groups such as Market Doctors.

Although it is not 100 percent free, it has been designed to address specific needs such as care for a particular pre-existing condition, and access for maternity or children.

Oladotun Adeogun, the managing director said the NHIS should ordinarily be accessible for some people who don’t even need to pay at all because the funding can cover them. But with the way the scheme is structured, it is not cheap, leaving a large chunk of the burden to trickle down coverage to HMOs.

“But if there is a subsidy for health insurance, then the burden can be lifted on HMOs. The subsidy in the NHIS is not robust enough to cover all who need it. We have an association of market women who we are covering and we have developed a product tailored to them only,” she said.

Adeogun believes this category of women won’t be stranded if the government catered to the healthcare needs of the generality of the Nigerian populace.

She suggests that the government increases the budget spending for healthcare generally, not just allotment to infrastructure but also dedicating a substantial part of it to meet the insurance needs of the people.

On the company’s path, she said further engagement would be initiated with other stakeholders to channel their corporate social responsibilities to support the provision of more coverage for those who cannot afford to pay.

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