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UHC: Expert calls for standard health insurance scheme in Nigeria

By Asma’u Ahmad

A former Chairman of Medical Guild, Lagos State Chapter, Dr Oseni Saliu, a former Chairman, has called for a standard health insurance scheme that would enable beneficiaries to access healthcare at any facility across the country.

Dr Saliu, who is also a General Surgeon at the General Hospital, Ikorodu, made this known in an interview with newsmen on Sunday in Lagos.

He spoke against the backdrop of the 2018 World Health Day marked annually on April 7 with the theme: “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says “UHC is about ensuring that people have access to quality healthcare services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.

“Universal” in UHC means “for all, without discrimination, leaving no one behind. “Everyone everywhere has a right to benefit from health services he needs without falling into poverty when using them.”

Dr Oseni Saliu

The health body said that Nigeria’s target of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through the revitalisation of Primary Healthcare System by 2030 was still on course.

Saliu said that the country did not run a standard health insurance scheme that would benefit the citizenry.

“If we really want to run an insurance health system, it should be available to the subscribers at anywhere, not necessarily attached to one health facility or the other.

“So, you have your card as insurance for your health, you have an injury in a town, you then walk into any hospital and give them your card.

“The hospital sends your bill to your provider and then the bill is paid, that is the standard thing that will happen.

“But, what we have currently being practiced is that, if you do not get to where you are attached to, you cannot get treatment, “ he said.

The general surgeon said that the country would not be able to achieve the universal health coverage if it did not practice health insurance that would benefit every citizen.

According to him, there are still situations where people visit a health facility and cannot access medical treatment, because they do not have the money to pay for the services.

“Many people cannot afford to pay for medical services and as such they patronise unqualified personnel for their needs.

“Such practices will only lead to more diseases, morbidity and death, because people cannot access the appropriate place when they are ill.

“It will only take political will to ensure that people access healthcare at any time and in any available facility,“ Saliu said.

He urged the government to partner with the private sector in order to provide services for those at the grassroots.

Saliu said: “Those hard-to-reach rural areas are mostly affected when it comes to delivering quality healthcare.

“People cannot access private facilities in those areas, because they cannot afford to pay for treatment there.

“So, government should partner with those private facilities to be able to provide services to people in the rural areas.

“It is only when everyone can access quality healthcare that we can have a healthy people, reduce deaths among pregnant women and children, and have economic growth.”

According to the WHO, at least, half of the world’s people were currently unable to obtain essential health services.

The WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondi Alemu, made this known at an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, to commemorate the 2018 World Health Day.

Alemu said that relevant mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that the nation’s resources were properly deployed toward supporting all citizens to access quality healthcare services without facing financial hardship.

It said that almost 100 million people were being pushed into extreme poverty, forced to survive on just 1.90 dollars or less a day, because they had to pay for health services out of their own pockets.

“Over 800 million people, almost 12 per cent of the world’s population spend at least 10 per cent of their household budgets on health expenses, a sick child or other family member,” it said.

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