UHC : Oyo targets informal sector, …insist mandatoriness in health insurance

In order to achieve Universal Health Coverage, UHC, of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, stakeholders want the Federal government to enforce mandatoriness for participation such that everyone will key into it as it will help eliminate out of pocket payments while seeking healthcare.

It will also encourage more patients visiting health facilities as part of strategy to curb mortality, particularly among children under five and vulnerable groups.

The Executive Secretary, Oyo State Health Insurance Agency, OYSHIA, Dr Olusola Akande who made this known in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, said the reason was to by all means extend insurance coverage benefits to vulnerable groups.

In his presentation on ‘ Social Health Insurance Scheme ‘ the Situation in Nigeria’, Dr Odusola noted that, ” the state government had committed more than N1 billion to the scheme in the state “,

According to him, ” to ensure that Nigerians key into healthy insurance, there must be constant innovation for them to embrace it wholeheartedly, pointing out that, not less than 500,000 people will be insured in the state before the end of 2024.

“We are targeting 500,000, using the ‘Irorun De Plus’ package, ” When an enrollee pays, we will give him or her a grinding machine for free; the person may also have access to loan facilities.” stressing that on Thursday this week, all street sweepers in Oyo State who constitute over 800 lives and majorly women would have enrolled by the end of the day ” Akande

” What we are aiming at is to get as many people as possible on health insurance, leaving no one behind, including the poor, the rich, the rural and urban dwellers,” adding that, ” enrolling people living with HIV, is the essence of insurance ” he said.

He have an assurance that the new enrollees will be given the benefits that are within the ambit of the insurance package they fall under.

While the 500,000 enrollees would be covered under ‘Irorun De Plus’, other enrollment packages are, Conventional OYSHIA Scheme, Pensioner’s Scheme, CBSHIP, Safer Health, BHCPF and Adoption Model, including the Diaspora and Student Schemes.

Akande explained that, the premium package for the health insurance package is N13,500 and that is what the rich, poor, including the vulnerable pay annually to enjoy the health insurance package.

” The reason for targeting 800 enrollees, was muted as part of the commemoration of the 2024 International Women’s Day ” he noted

Dr Akande who expressed dismay at the low awareness of the scheme, described health insurance as the best and only way to reach the vulnerable, while urging residents to make use of the affordable health care insurance provided by the state government, advocated more awereness about the scheme.

OYSHIA was established in 2016 but began enrolment in 2017. Its total enrollment to date is 190,968. While the formal sector has enrolled 104,533, the informal sector has 86,435 enrollees.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on it’s part wants state governments to prioritise funding health insurance to ensure that vulnerable persons, including children and pregnant women, get enrolled.

UNICEF Health Specialist, Dr Ijeoma Agbo, who spoke on the theme, ‘Changing the narrative on child mortality through health insurance, explained that, state governments do not only enroll them but should also ensure that payed premiums for vulnerable persons are released regularly.

Dr Agbo said, and I quote ” health insurance facilitates equitable distribution of healthcare resources and brings financial protection because it reduces the burden of out-of-pocket expenses on individuals and families “.

She identified inadequate funding, poor awareness about health insurance and its benefits and infrastructural gaps in healthcare as some of the challenges militating against the scheme.

“Achieving universal health coverage is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which talks about universal health coverage ensure that everyone has good health and wellbeing “. Agbo

“ According to her, poor awareness and information has been a problem, So, providing information on its benefits will help to achieve universal health, adding that when premiums are paid, financial hardship regarding assessing quality health services will reduce “.

“ Some states in Nigeria have introduced own health insurance packages to complement the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and extend coverage to residents. They vary in scope, coverage, and implementation effectiveness and impact in terms of overall progress towards UHC.” She explained

To accelerate progress towards UHC in Nigeria, Agbo said concerted efforts must be made to address systemic challenges and strengthen health systems.

Welcoming the participants, Communication Officer, UNICEF, Blessing Ejiofor, said, health insurance is pivotal to receiving timely healthcare services children needs to survive.

She wants the media to do more to draw the attention of everyone to issues of insurance and close the gaps in health insurance coverage for the less privileged.

The media dialogue was put together by the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency in collaboration with UNICEF.

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