Universal health care (UHC) sometimes referred to as universal health coverage, usually refers to a healthcare system which provides health care and financial protection to all its citizens. It is organised around providing a specified package of benefits to all members of a society with the end goal of providing financial risk protection, improved access to health services, and improved health outcomes. Universal health care is not a one-size-fits-all concept; nor does it imply coverage for all people for everything. Universal health care can be determined by three critical dimensions: who is covered, what services are covered, and how much of the cost is covered.
According to Kenneth Ojo, a health economist, “access to comprehensive, quality health care services is important for the achievement of health equity and for increasing the quality of a healthy life for everyone. Five aspects of access require evaluation and modeling and they include: Availability and adequacy, physical accessibility, financial/ affordability, organisational/governance and acceptability: social or cultural barriers that limit the utilisation of services.”
“Services available must be relevant and effective if the population is to ‘gain access to satisfactory health outcomes’. The availability of services, and barriers to access, have to be considered in the context of the differing perspectives, health needs and material and cultural settings of diverse groups in society. Equity of access may be measured in terms of the availability, utilization or outcomes of services”
For K.S. Adeyemi, a professor and health economist, “Nigeria has been variously described as a paradox due to the unbalanced equation between its vast resources and incidence of failed social infrastructure and high level of poverty. For instance, between 1970 & 2000, Nigeria earned more than US$300bn from only one resource and nothing to show for it. It is important to note that the complex issue of the financing of health services largely stems from the economics of discontent and loss of confidence in the agents by the principals. The concern for the stable financing of health services recently assumed greater proportion especially from 2006/2007 when the global financial crises started”
The challenges of universal healthcare is greatly influenced by insufficient financing and in Nigeria, a lot of people are not involved in receiving basic healthcare for reasons which ranges from poor access to unaffordability.
A former minister of health, Eyitayo Lambo, a professor, is of the opinion that “Universal Health Care (UHC) implies equity in access and financial risk protection. UHC implies that a major source of health funding needs to come from prepaid and pooled contributions rather than from user fees or charges levied once a person falls ill and accesses services.” How close we are to actualising UHC remains uncertain even in 2014.
By: Kemi Ajumobi