OVER the years, the failure of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, to fulfill its primary objective of providing the required health insurance coverage for all Nigerians has compounded the fortunes of those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder.
A ray of hope that emerged through the approval of one per cent from the Consolidated Revenue Fund by the Federal government in the 2018 budget remains the key to the provision of basic health care for all Nigerians irrespective of their financial status.
The move, essentially, was to enable the funding of projects, programmes and policies towards the goal of attainment of Universal Health Coverage, UHC, in Nigeria by 2025.
The goal of the UHC, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, is to ensure that all people and communities obtain the health services that they desire without undergoing financial hardship. One of the most telling outcomes of the approval of the one per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund has been the emergence of State Health Insurance Schemes, SHIS, across the Federation.
Several states have launched and are operating their locally-developed health insurance schemes. No doubt, this is a step in the right direction. Health insurance is the main pillar for the attainment of the UHC in the National Health System.
It is part of the social protection architecture to ensure that Nigerian citizens get quality health service when and where they need it, without suffering undue financial hardship.
Coupled with the comprehensive revitalisation of functional Primary Healthcare Centres, rural dwellers and the urban poor are now hopeful of accessing, at least, a basic healthcare package whenever they go to the hospital, even when they do not immediately have the finances to pay for treatment.
It is expected that the gap of providing qualitative healthcare that is affordable, accessible and available to all Nigerians is gradually being closed.
In states that have blazed the trail by establishing their own health insurance schemes, the ultimate desire must remain the core principle of health insurance, which is reducing out-of-pocket payment.
Provision of a basic minimum package of health services to citizens without the undermining challenges of financial barriers, should be guaranteed once and for all.
It is desirable that the natural progression of the States Health Insurance Scheme in the spectrum of reforms aimed at removing financial barriers to healthcare for ordinary Nigerian is not truncated.
Rolling out these plans should primarily remain focused towards achieving the overall goal of enabling all residents to have unhindered access to quality healthcare irrespective of their social or financial status.
If properly implemented, this will be the first social insurance programme that caters for everybody, not just government workers. That is commendable.