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43 years after, Nigeria begins Health Insurance scheme

Posted by From Ben Ukwuoma and Okumephuna Chukwunwike, Abuja on 2005/06/07 | Views: 2872 |

43 years after, Nigeria begins Health Insurance scheme


WITH registration number P0000001, President Olusegun Obasanjo not only made history yesterday as the first person to be registered on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), but also formally launched the much awaited scheme with the disclosure that his administration has set aside not less than N26 billion for the scheme in the 2005 budget.

WITH registration number P0000001, President Olusegun Obasanjo not only made history yesterday as the first person to be registered on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), but also formally launched the much awaited scheme with the disclosure that his administration has set aside not less than N26 billion for the scheme in the 2005 budget.

According to him: "This additional resource allocation is consistent with the United Nations (UN) recommendation for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for health," he said.

"I have also further directed that no contribution will be deducted from any government employee until the end of 2006 when there will be comprehensive evaluation. It is my sincere belief that this is enough confidence-building period for all of us to agree to make our own financial contribution to the scheme", he added.

The President had vacated his seat, uninvited and proceeded to the registration seat.

Facing the camera, he beamed and the computer camera captured his image. He thus went down in the nation's history as the first Nigerian to be registered under a pooling mechanism to which all stakeholders contribute, rather than a total reliance on government or individual out-of-pocket payments.

"With the start of the NHIS, we see a future of opportunity to improve on our health indicator which is related to our poverty index," President Obasanjo declared.

He was however quick in assuring Nigerians that the scheme will never go the way of other government programmes, saying that the scheme will prove to Nigerians that his administration is serious and sincere about his reform agendas.

Turning his attention to the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who had earlier endorsed the scheme, President Obasanjo said the former's presence and position on the scheme is a sign that the Congress is in agreement with the reform programme of his administration. "I am not 'just' happy but 'extremely happy' to see that the Labour leader is for once agreeing and endorsing my reform agenda".

He added: "I am particularly delighted with the position taken by the Congress not only in endorsing the scheme, including the moratorium on deductions of contributions but also their call that the scheme be extended to the organised private sector within one year of its commencement in the public sector."

Obasanjo therefore appealed to health care providers enrolled for the scheme to treat it with attention, seriousness, transparency, accountability and efficiency it deserves for a viable health care delivery.

Obviously not happy with the age-long inter-professional rivalry in the health sector, he said. "Government will not allow any one or group to subvert this noble initiative. We must all give the scheme a chance to work through cooperation and understanding. This is our initiative, let us celebrate it and make it work", he said.

Oshiomhole had earlier praised the courage, will and determination of the President to launch a scheme, which had defied the efforts of previous administrations since it was first mooted in 1962.

Oshiomhole said this giant step would leave the name of the President in the sands of time as an enduring legacy of his administration since it is "so far the only reform agenda of the present administration that has been accepted by Nigerian workers wholeheartedly".

He, however, asked the President not only to ensure that the unemployed forms the bulk of the Nigerian population who would have access to the services of the scheme as soon as possible but also to ensure that the private sector's involvement in the scheme's enabling Act is not tampered with.

The duo of the Minister of Health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo and the Minister of State for Health, Princess Olufunke Adedoyin, had in their speeches given assurance that the government is religiously committed to implementing the scheme and seeing it eventually giving accessible, affordable and qualitative health care to all Nigerians.

They opined that the spirit of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) is tied to achieving the goals of wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction and value reorientation.

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