By Asmau Ahmad
The Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Femi Thomas says no fewer than 7.2 million Nigerians have enrolled into the various health schemes of the agency. Thomas said this on Wednesday in Enugu during NHIS special day programme at the ongoing 26th Enugu International Trade Fair. The scheme was established under Act 35 of 1999 by the Federal Government to provide easy access to healthcare for all Nigerians at an affordable cost through various prepayment systems.
The executive secretary, who was represented by Mr Nasiru Ikharo, NHIS Zonal Coordinator, South-South, said that the figure represented the number on the agency’s database.
“The figures are dynamic. As we speak, people are enrolling into one programme or the other,” he said. He said that the scheme had put to use over 10,000 health care facilities out of over 36,000 health facilities across the country. Thomas appealed to Nigerians to take advantage of the scheme to address their health challenges, adding that the scheme was meant for them. He said that nationals of other countries residing in the country were also eligible to enroll into the programmes.
The executive secretary added that participation in the scheme by Nigerians and others in the country had become imperative in view of the need to achieve universal health coverage target by 2020.
“The President gave us a mandate to enroll about 35 per cent of Nigerians into one programme or the other by the end of 2015, but we have decided to up the target to 40 per cent.
“With this target, we have restructured our services as well as energised our staff to be able to meet up.” Thomas said that though the attainment of 100 per cent health coverage by 2020 was enormous, it was possible.
“What we have done is to introduce other support programmes.
“Before now, we were telling state governments to contribute to a national common pool for the NHIS, but they resisted, saying they were independent and could legislate it on their own.
“So, they have been encouraged to set up their own health insurance agencies and make health insurance compulsory for the state population, while we give them the technical support”.
Thomas said that such agencies would also receive monetary assistance from the centre as provided in the National Health Act. The Enugu State NHIS Coordinator, Mrs Ahunna Ochor, said that the vigour with which the NHIS was pursuing its mandate would mark a new beginning in the zone. Ochor expressed concern that states in the South East were lagging behind in the scheme, adding that it would no longer be business as usual. She, however, said that there were indications that state governments and communities in the zone were beginning to realize the importance of the universal health coverage.