Home Features Over 160 Million Nigerians not covered by NHIS; a case study of Daniel Emory

Over 160 Million Nigerians not covered by NHIS; a case study of Daniel Emory

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By Ndidi Chukwu

If he knew this will be his story today, having his health insured would have been a priority. He has been on the news, radio stations and everywhere in search of 5 million naira to be able to walk again yet help is not here yet. Why is the NHIS not taking up his case? Find out in this story as Ndidi Chukwu narrates Daniel Emory’s ordeal from ‘Just a Stray Cow.’

Shuttling from his work place to places of assignment to take delivery from customers was always a delight in Onitsha town some ten years ago, Daniel Emory could still recall. His mobile phone beeping at minute’s interval, all calls from customers. He said, ‘the customers all wanted me to work with them, because they considered me very active, now the story is different, I can’t walk and then my phone rarely beeps

What seemed like a movie happening around that minute remained unfathomable to Emory he could still picture it all. Ten years after reality has told him the hard truth that the active Daniel Emory may never walk again.

Onitsha in 2005, on that ill fated day, Daniel stepped down from the company’s official car, trying to cross to the other side of the road to deliver goods to a customer. He jumped through the first drainage system, as the car could not make a turn to the lane where the customer was due to traffic jam caused by herds of cows moving to the abattoir. ‘the scene was a normal one around the area that was why I didn’t bother about them, I had to cross but…then came the stray cow, which took me up,…that was all I could remember’

Emory then 21 years old and now 31 has spent 10 years of his youthful age on bed, with the help from a Good Samaritan who paid for the cost of his spine surgery, and since then has been responsible for his feeding and care, Emory is still keeping hope alive that from his new resident city, Abuja help will come. He would need 5million n aira, already ‘subsidised’ out of the gesture of Abuja Optimal Health Care for daily care by physiotherapist within one year to see if he could walk again but raising five million for Emory has become unrealistic three years after his spine surgery at Primus Hospital Abuja.

Engaging in some heated argument with colleagues over the Visibility of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the nation tells how badly the scheme has done so far, it however ended in a shared blame, where out of seven who shared ideas on the NHIS visibility challenge, only two have their health insured, and five considers it ‘a future venture’.

Like Daniel Emory, thousands of Nigerians have become handicapped, and their livelihood halted due to the high cost of access to some special health care services which are considered expensive. On the streets are very poor Nigerians, with severe health challenges, {tumours, elephantiasis, leprosy, blindness, and even crippled} been paraded by some social welfare group, as beggars, some who could not pull through with the strenuous walk under the daily scorching sun are considered lazy by their helpers despite the sickly state of their health, some are left to die while others are even duped by the purported helpers.

Having a workable health insurance programme to cover over 100 million missing Nigerians is a hope that is seemingly a mirage in a very hopeful society like Nigeria.  With 80 percent of its target being at the informal sector, the National Health Insurance Scheme believes its traditional challenge lays with ‘social solidarity’ the inability of Nigerians to willingly embrace the Health insurance programme.

The NHIS former executive secretary, Dr. Femi Thomas, recently announced officially that Nigeria, which has about 170 million people as its populace only has 7.2million covered in the numerous health insurance programmes developed by the scheme since its inception in 2005. The question which has remained unanswered is, where is the missing 100 million Nigerians? Why they are not interested in insuring their own health? Is it still the issue of ‘nonchalance’ attribute to most Nigerians? Or who is not doing his job?

It is worth noting that the 7.2 million lives assumed to have been covered in the various packages for insurance in Nigeria are those in Nigeria’s formal sector, who by chances of the provisions of their employer-employee relationship are left with no option than to enjoy what millions of Nigerians consider irrelevant. Some on the other hand who have tried the Health Insurance system among this cadre of Nigerians voluntarily opt out. Complaints being that ‘the drugs given are substandard’ and it is the responsibility of the NHIS to monitor drugs that go to patients who are covered in its programme.

A very renowned health icon in Nigeria name withheld was asked which HMO covers his Health Insurance, he was mute for some seconds and letter said ‘none’, while his counterpart has his health ‘covered in UK’.

Nigerians are yet to understand the value for insuring health, Emory’s case like many others, those on television stations pleading for help from Nigerians could have been averted. Emergencies are inevitable, people every day run into sudden medical challenges, yet very few have their insurance packages to fall back on.

Education and awareness however is the greatest challenge. With social solidarity playing a huge role, every Nigerian, Rich or poor has the right to knowledge. Nigerians would wish to see active grassroots mobilisation to get their health insured. Notwithstanding Nigeria’s poverty level, market women, farmers, and anyone captured as belonging to the informal sector belongs to a group, in their little groups all have workable rules and guidelines which make them thick. Why then do we have a Community Health Insurance programme and yet the segments and groups of huge Nigeria’s informal sector yet to be captured? Some jobs are not being done or are perhaps forgotten.

The National Mobile Health Insurance Programme (NMHIP) considered being the first in the world, means ‘great things can still come out of Nigeria’. It provides for subscribers of the Mobile Network operators the platform to register, select HMO and provider, and choose payment options and plans, through the mobile phones launched recently could enrol all mobile phone users in Nigeria, from the bricklayer, to the market woman, and even the private sector employee who are considered to be at the informal sector and enrolment is free.

Another brilliant move by the scheme, nothing less than 100 million Nigerians are active mobile phone users, that one would begin to assume that three months since the launch of the NMHIP, over two million would have been enrolled. Nigeria’s network Operators, GLO, MTN, ETISALAT, and AIRTEL, assumed to be in high spirits and ready to roll out messages for mobilisation are yet to begin. It is however anticipated that all Nigerians could benefit from this programme especially now a law, the National Health Act is backing the funding of the NHIS.

With the NHIS having access to 50 percent of the national revenue coming to health as recommended by the National Health Act, things have to be done differently. The excuse that Nigerians are not enrolling has to be dropped. The market woman out there has the right to know why she has to contribute her hard earn money to health that she is not accessing at the moment, and this education is the responsibility of the NHIS. The many good programmes developed by the scheme have to be made visible for Nigerians to know and embrace.

A little blame to the scheme and more to this people {Nigerians}, this is the era of change, people ought to take responsibility of their own health. Investing now for a healthy life in the future could be a good fallback for days of health Emergencies. Like Emory and many others seeking help to have their lives back, a little investment in health could make the difference.

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