Following the inability of Nigeria to attain considerable universal health coverage, the newly appointed Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Femi Thomas said the agency would expedite action in ensuring that universal health coverage for 30% of Nigerians by 2015 is attained.
The NHIS boss made this known at a stakeholder forum in Abuja. Thomas pledged that the agency as a matter of urgency had been streamlined to ensure that many Nigerians are covered under the NHIS programme.
According to him, NHIS under his leadership is "committed to meeting the presidential mandate, as it plans to extend coverage to 30% of Nigerians by 2015."
Thomas stated that "as part of the strategy for achieving the mandate, the scheme is already working on the blueprint of a programme of extending effective, affordable and efficient healthcare to all primary school pupils across the country."
He explained that the new initiative would assist tremendously in reducing the burden of vulnerable groups. Thomas further stressed that, "this is informed by the urgent need to save the future of the country from the socio-economic consequences of the continued vulnerability of this sensitive section of the population."
The new initiative, Thomas argued, is borne out of the fact that recent statistics from the National Population Commission (NPC) shows that, primary school pupils constitute about 42 million of our population. "It is common knowledge that sub-Saharan Africa in general and Nigeria in particular is in dire need of a robust health care delivery system. Nigeria specifically has the highest population growth rate in West Africa. The latest population figures stand at 160million people, about 25% of the sub Saharan population," he maintained.
The Executive Secretary contended that "for Nigeria?s social health insurance scheme to achieve full coverage of its citizens, there is need for the nation to take a few bold steps, one of which is the speedy passage of the bill seeking to amend the NHIS Act. When amended, the Act will make health insurance mandatory in the country in both the public and private sectors of the country."
"Another vital consideration is the expansion of funding opportunities, to generate sufficient resources that will address subsidy gaps that may emerge in the process," he observed.
On public awareness, the new NHIS boss promised to "spearhead an aggressive sensitization process across the country, to create necessary awareness about the opportunities and benefits of health insurance, because according to him, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) remains the most cost-effective way of funding qualitative health care in Nigeria."
He concluded by stating that "the ultimate mandate of the NHIS is to achieve universal coverage of all Nigerians, thus guaranteeing adequate and qualitative healthcare delivery to all, while the vision and efforts of the NHIS may receive a well deserved boost from the obvious support of the Jonathan administration for the activities of the scheme, in addition to the groundswell of goodwill the programme enjoys from stakeholders."