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April 23, 2024
You are currently viewing Health insurance tariff needs urgent review – National Hospital CMD
Chief Medical Director, National Hospital, Abuja, Prof. Muhammad Raji.

Health insurance tariff needs urgent review – National Hospital CMD

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By Folasade Akpan

Prof. Mahmud Raji, Chief Medical Director of National Hospital (NHA), Abuja, has advised the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to review insurance tariffs to reflect current realities.

“The premium should be reviewed upward to reflect the times and give better coverage to enrollees,” Raji told the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

He observed that the last time the tariff was reviewed was several years ago.

“Considering the fact that the prices of commodities have quadrupled, the review is very important.

“As at the time the current tariff was put in place, a dollar was N150; now, it is well over N1,400.

“Medications we procure are hugely from out of the country and in dollars.

“So, when the money allocated for medication is, say N1,000 per patient, and then the medications that we have to dispense are N10,000 or N20,000, how do you expect the hospital to just keep doing that?

“We still do that to an extent, which is the reason why sometimes we still have the issues of not being able to pay our vendors.  That gives us the recurring problem of patients saying they are not getting what they are asking for.

“The Federal Ministry of Health, or probably the Federal Government, will need to sit down and restructure the tariffs of NHIA from what we have now.

“I say this on behalf of all hospitals, most especially teaching hospitals and tertiary hospitals. It is really not realistic and that does not only stop at the cost of medications, it goes down to all cost of services offered by NHIA.”

NAN reports that the scheme is a social  healthcare programme designed by the Federal Government to complement sources of financing the health sector and to improve access to health care for the majority of Nigerians.

Set up by Decree 35 of 1999 (now Act 35), it operates on a Public Private Partnership arrangement focused on providing accessible, affordable and qualitative healthcare for all Nigerians.

On May 24, 2022, it was officially gazetted by the Federal Government as the National Health Insurance Authority(NHIA).

On the need to improve the health sector to cater appropriately to the healthcare needs of Nigerians, Raji said that a holistic approach must be employed, adding that government would not do it alone “with the present state of things”.

“Government alone cannot do everything. It has too much in its hands.

“Equally critical issues like security, education, roads all compete for government’s limited resources. Insecurity, alone, adversely affects all sectors.

“Also, our economy is a consumer economy and not a producer economy, so the government is not likely to gain as much money.

“Government does not have so much but yet has so many things it needs to take care of, so it is unfair to say the government must be able to fund healthcare fully.

“So, as the government is trying to do its little bit, other Nigerians have to do their bit.

“The sectors of government that have been empowered to do what it takes to bring in investors into the country to improve the economy, to ensure that there is security, should also do their part.

“When everybody is doing his or her part, we shall build the right synergy and everything will fall into place.”

He opined that to improve on healthcare delivery, private investors must be involved as the government alone may not be able to fund healthcare fully as it would wish.

“It clearly means that private sector funding must come in,” Raji declared.

He added that other international bodies would have to make an input, while other Nigerians, who are well to do, would also have to come in either through philanthropy or Public Private Partnership arrangement.

He agreed, however, that the healthcare industry should be critically looked into.

According to him, pharmaceutical companies will need to be set up, especially since a number of pharmaceutical companies have left Nigeria.

“These gaps should be filled by Nigerian companies so as to reduce the cost of medication and improve the reach and quality of medication that Nigerians would have access to.

“So, when you think about companies producing vaccines, Nigerian companies should be able to do that. We have what it takes, we have the manpower, the land and whatever it takes to do that.

“When we look at heavy equipment like MRI, CT Scans, X-Ray machines and all those big machines that we use in healthcare, even if we cannot manufacture them from scratch, at least Nigeria should have an assembly plant so that they are cheaper and more accessible.”

The CMD said that Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians should be ensured.

“But to do that, there has to be a realistic pricing of costs of services,” he pointed out.

He said that with UHC, each of the nation’s 220 million people would be covered to receive appropriate healthcare.

“So, you can imagine if all of these people will now come into a certain hospital in their locality. That hospital will be swamped, except if each hospital will be reimbursed.

“If they can be reimbursed, it will also serve for them as a form of revenue.

“So, these hospitals will, on their own, be able to thrive. I think that those are ingredients that once we put them in order, we should be able to have a sustainable, universally accessible health care in the country.” (NAN)

Philip Daniel Yatai

Principal Correspondent, NAN Abuja
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