90% of Nigerians not covered by health insurance, says Minister
The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, said on Tuesday that 90 per cent of Nigerians were not covered in the nation’s health insurance scheme.
But he vowed that there would soon be a turning point in the nation’s health sector given the avowed determination and commitment of President Bola Tinubu’s administration to give Nigerians a renewed health system.
This came as the federal government unveiled the National Health Insurance Authority,NHIA Operational Guidelines with a view to redefining the nation’s healthcare system,thus
ensuring that every citizen live a healthier and more prosperous life.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony in Abuja,Prof. Pate,who recalled that the journey to have Nigerians covered with health insurance began some 40 years ago,noted that the country had made tremendous progress in having its citizens covered with health insurance.
However,he said the progress recorded so far was not something for the country to be proud of,given that only eight to nine percent of its population were covered leaving over 90 percent without health insurance.
He said:”All is not yet well with the health sector despite the progress that we have made. One of those areas that is not well is out-of-pocket spending Nigerians faced to access health. We are concerned about how this means to Nigerians on the street.
” Many people are being pushed into poverty as they have to pay out of pocket to access health services. That is the situation that we are. But President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,as part of his Renewed Hope Agenda for Nigeria, is committed to changing this country for the better. And for us under his leadership,we are committed to changing the trajectory of health of Nigeria. And this milestone that we are witnessing today is an important manifestation of that even though it’s still a long journey.
“It’s been 40 years or more that Nigeria has been embarking on efforts to build an insurance cover. Today, about eight to nine percent of Nigerians have insurance cover.
That is something we should be proud of, but also, is something we should not be proud of, because we know that 90 percent of Nigerians are not covered. So our work is not done.
“In recent years, with the enactment of the NHIA 2022 and now with the operational guidelines,it marked a turning point where it is mandatory that the sub-national units are really factored in, and the National Health Act where there is a fund for the vulnerable group. So we are now set to execute and make faster progress.”
According to him,”The NHIA exemplifies why the president,in his wisdom,makes health and social development together.”
In his speech earlier,the Director General and Chief Executive Officer,CEO of the National Health Insurance Authority, NHIA,Prof Mohammed Sambo,said the NHIA operational guidelines unveiling occasion was not only a momentous one for the organization but for the entire health sector and, indeed, all Nigerians who have been awaiting the guidelines since the last edition in 2012, and the NHIA Act which was signed into law ten years after in 2022.
” Today, after a complex process of engagements, deliberations, reviews and approvals, we finally gather to unveil the Guidelines, which stand as a testament of our commitment to the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the renewed health, well-being and productivity of all Nigerians.
“This document is crucial because it is a secondary law. It clarifies the roles, responsibilities and obligations of various stakeholders and facilitates the implementation of health insurance in Nigeria. It also embodies the principles of equity, quality, and sustainability,”he said.
According to him,”Before the signing of the NHIA Act into law on May 19, 2022, all attempts to protect the good citizens of Nigeria from the catastrophic effects of high medical bills through health insurance yielded sub-optimal results.”
“The old law was limited as there was neither provision for mandatory participation nor mechanisms to pay for vulnerable populations, which are two critical ingredients for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.
“The NHIA Act 2022 has, therefore, laid the foundation for a transformative healthcare system, one that genuinely aspires to leave no one behind, ensuring that every individual, regardless of their background, geographical location, or financial status, can access the quantum and the quality of healthcare services that they require, whenever and wherever they need it – without the risk of
“The Act has also provided the much-needed traction for achieving Universal Health Coverage by empowering the NHIA to promote, integrate and regulate all health insurance schemes in Nigeria. All these innovations in the Act necessitated the development of new Operational Guidelines, and | must, at this point, recognize the unrelenting efforts and the commitment of the legislators of the 9° National Assembly to getting the law passed and assented to by Mr. President. We thank you and look forward to having an equally fruitful relationship with the 10th National Assembly as we work towards fully implementing the Act,”he explained.
Speaking further,he explained that:”From the day the NHIA Act came into effect, the NHIA has worked assiduously and in close relationships with all relevant stakeholders to develop guidelines that will operationalize the Act. The process was characterized by thoughtful collaboration, extensive research, and careful consideration of international best practices. It also leveraged the experiences we have gathered in over 20 years of implementing health insurance in Nigeria.
“The Guidelines clarify the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders within the Health Insurance Ecosystem. They specify the Basic Minimum Package of Health Services for all Nigerians and how schemes will strategically purchase these services across
“The Guidelines specify standards for the accreditation of critical stakeholders operating within the health insurance ecosystem as well as the penalties for offences committed by defaulting stakeholders.
“The document also recognizes the integration of SSHIAs as conceptualized in the Health Insurance Under One Roof (HIUOR) coordination framework.”
He said he was “convinced that the NHIA Operational Guidelines will be the guiding light for our Nation’s health insurance ecosystem.”
” | alsobelieve these guidelines are the roadmap to the better, healthier future we collectively envision for ourselves as a country,”he added.
The NHIA boss explained that,” One of the cornerstones of these guidelines is the principle of equity.”
” We firmly believe that every citizen of this great Nation has the right to healthcare services that are not only accessible but also affordable. No one should have to choose between their health and their financial stability.
“As such, the operational guidelines have provided the framework for operationalizing the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF) as provided by the NHIA Act 2022.
“It gladdens my heart that the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr. President has considered providing coverage for at least 50 million Nigerians within the tenure of the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the VGF is the catalyst for the actualization of this lofty goal.
” | will not fail to mention that this Operational Guidelines further reiterates our commitment to the success of the NHIA Medicine Supply Initiative. The NHIA recently signed a memorandum of understanding with 12 indigenous Pharmaceutical Companies to provide much-needed medicines at affordable prices for the health insurance ecosystem. This aligns with the drive for medical industrialization as envisioned in the 4 Point Agenda of the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare,”he further said.
Sambo said he believes that with the wide-ranging and transparent consultations that went into developing the NHIA Operational Guidelines, it will be well received and dutifully implemented by all concerned stakeholders.
He assured the current and future enrollees of the health insurance ecosystem of the commitment of the NHIA to provide the needed leadership and regulatory oversight.
“We are embarking on a journey that will redefine healthcare in our nation as we aspire to make Nigeria a reference point in Africa and the world,”he added.