By Kemi Yesufu
Director-General of the National Health Insurance Authority, NHIA, (formerly, the National Health Insurance Scheme), Professor Mohammed Sambo has predicted a significant improvement in the quality of healthcare services as well as the much required increased funding for the health sector with the enactment of the NHIA law.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the NHIA Bill into law in May.
Speaking a workshop to further acquaint the media with the new law, held in Abuja on Tuesday, Sambo described the NHIA law as one which has reenergized stakeholders, majority of whom had advocated for a repeal of the old law governing health insurance and for it to be replaced with a more effective and holistic law.
He insisted that there was no provision for a telecom tax as part of funding health insurance in the recently signed law.
He said: “Three months ago, precisely on April 26, I addressed a World News Conference. On that occasion, I presented the scorecard of my leadership and concerted efforts being made to bring affordable and quality healthcare to all Nigerians. At that time, all but one directive handed down by the president upon appointment had been fulfilled.
“Today, I am delighted to announce to you that the outstanding presidential point has been brought to fruition-the NHIA Act. As you might know, my letter of appointment had an attached annexure itemising ten points that must be achieved. All but that one was beyond our powers to implement.
“The review of the law governing the agency, its operations and the entire health insurance ecosystem was a matter for legislative processing. As you might imagine, the road to the passage of the Act was tortuous but we are consoled that finally history has been made. Stakeholders were agreed that the repealed law was the best known hindrance to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage UHC in Nigeria. In any event, President Muhammadu Buhari made history on May 19, 2022 when he signed the NHIA Act into law”.
“The NHIA Act which brings renewed prospects for the delivery of effective health insurance in Nigeria, fundamentally resets the ecosystem. It changes the name of the agency from National Health Insurance Scheme to National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
“From the moment Mr President put pen to paper, health insurance became mandatory. The NHIA Act empowers the Authority to see to it that every Nigerian and legal residents have health insurance. This is a complete departure from the previous law that made health insurance optional. The Authority would co-exist with State systems and other stakeholders. The law provides that NHIA will promote, regulate and integrate through the ecosystem. Significantly, the law provides for the establishment of the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF) and outlines sources of funding for it. For the records, nowhere does the law impose a telecoms tax as a source of funding. This workshop will shed light on that”, he further said.
The new law empowers NHIA to integrate, and regulate all health insurance schemes. With the new law, the NHIA is to enforce the implementation of the basic minimum package for Nigerians in states and the FCT as well as private health insurance schemes. The NHIA law also gives the agency the power to implement the Basic Healthcare Fund as required by the National Health Act. This is even as the law retains the power for accreditation of Health Management Organisations, insurance companies/brokers and banks interested in providing health insurance.