Health insurance now compulsory to access healthcare fund
By Jeph Ajobaju, Chief Copy Editor
All employers and employees in both the public and private sectors, and in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy, are now to have health insurance, according to the new National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act.
President Muhammadu Buhari last week signed the NHIA Bill 2021 into law which repealed the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Act 2004.
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The 2004 Act required states to pay a 50 per cent counterpart fund to access their total fund from the BHCPF.
The 2021 Act mandates that only states with established health insurance schemes and contributory schemes would benefit from the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF).
The new Act is part of Nigeria’s plan to achieved Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), by 2030.
Section 13(8) of the Act says: “Every state that has established a State Health Insurance or Contributory Scheme and complies with this Act’s requirements shall be eligible to participate in the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund as established under the National Health Act and its guidelines.”
Section 14(1, 2) says: “Subject to the provisions of this Act, every person resident in Nigeria shall be required to obtain health insurance. Residents under this Act include all employers and employees in public and private sectors with five staff and above, informal sector employees, and all other residents of Nigeria.”
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New Act strengthens the NHIS
Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC, Kwara) who sponsored the bill, explained during its debate that “the bill would provide for a robust, affordable and sustainable financial mechanism for health. The bill will enhance the ability of Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030.”
Ultimate Health Management Services CEO Lekan Ewenla, a former member of the NHIS board, told The PUNCH that the new law would enable Nigerians, especially the vulnerable, get access to healthcare.
“This new law was meticulously written to ensure compliance in order to ensure that everyone who lives in this country enjoys basic healthcare services. The NHIS has been strengthened as a regulatory authority. They will go all out to ensure strict compliance,” he said.
“Just like in the old Act, states that do not have a contributory scheme or refuse to domesticate the bill won’t enjoy the benefits. It is, however, important that states realise the importance of domesticating this law so that citizens, most especially the vulnerable, can enjoy the services.
“While the former law focused on just the formal sector, the new law focuses also not just on the formal sector but on the informal sector.
“Statutorily, every employer of labour should pay 10 per cent of basic salaries as medical allowances which are to be converted as premium for workforce.”
Operation of NHIS
The new law repeals the NHIS Act that had been in existence since 2004.
The NHIS sought to alleviate poverty by reducing avoidable deaths, ensuring quality health service, and preventing capital flight through medical tourism.
It pooled funds from different sectors of the economy with many people contributing money to guarantee free healthcare for the contributors.
But the NHIS grew at snail speed leaving more than 93 per cent of Nigerians without access to health insurance.