By Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
Forty Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) face de-accreditation, with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) issuing a three-week deadline for the firms to meet laid down criteria or forfeit the renewal of their accreditation.
Chairperson of the recently inaugurated governing council of the NHIS, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne, announced the deadline given HMOs on Thursday at a media briefing in Abuja.
Recall that the minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole in April 2017, approved the re-accreditation of HMOs. But the process has been delayed, with the Executive-Secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, telling members of the House Committee on Health Services in June 2017 of a N3.5 billion debt owed hospitals by HMOs, saying only firms that liquidate their debts will be re-accredited.
Frontline News Online can also reveal that some HMOs haven’t been reaccredited for two years.
But speaking in favour of stricter regulation, Ifenne, a veteran pediatrician decried years of poor regulation by the NHIS, adding that the insistence of the agency on HMOs meeting all the criteria for re-accreditation is to change the trend of financially unstable companies struggling to meet up with expectations.
The NHIS board chairperson explained that out of 57 HMOs, only 11which scored above 70 percent of the basic requirements for operations qualified for provincial accreditation. This is as 40 HMOs met 50 percent of the requirements, while six of the firms are not to be considered.
She further explained that the 40 HMOs which met 50 percent of necessary requirements have only three weeks to complete other documentation.
“What we have is a cumulation of regulatory failures, accreditation should not be the only time we know that a company is bankrupt or non-existent or that shares were sold to a South- African entity.
“If we were up and doing, on our toes, applying the regulatory powers given us under the law and further listed in our operating guidelines, this should not be happening.
‘This board is committed…. And we have directed management to submit to us at the next board meeting, a protocol and a plan of regulation of HMOs, which we will approve to put in place immediately”, Ifenne stated.
Reacting to questions on ensuring accountability and planned interventions on media reports of the mismanagement of an estimated N351 billion paid HMOs from 2005 to 2016 and the withdrawal of N10 billion NHIS fund from the Treasury Single Account, a member of the board Senator Bassey Otu assured that allegations of fraud will thoroughly investigated.
However, Otu, who heads the Finance Committee on the board dismissed a report by a national daily, that the agency’s Executive-Secretary invested N25 billion of NHIS fund in government securities, ignoring advice from the Health minister.
On his part, Prof. Yusuf stated his support for the reforms spearheaded by the NHIS board. According to him, the insistence on due process by the 11-man board will ultimately result in improved services for the enrollees.
“We have not done the right things in the past. My pledge is to serve the people better”, he said.