The Federal Government has mandated all employers and employees in public, private, and informal sectors to have access to health insurance.
This development came when the FG noted that only states with established health insurance schemes and contributory schemes would benefit from the Basic Health care Provision Fund.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 last week.
The newly signed law by the President repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme Act 2004.
Under the previous Act, states were required to pay a 50 percent counterpart fund to access the total fund for the BHCPF.
President Buhari’s signing of the new Act is part of the moves by the FG to ensure that Nigeria achieves Universal Health Coverage, a Sustainable Development Goal by 2030.
Section 13, subsection 8 of the newly signed Act, provided that:
“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.”
Similarly, section 14, subsections 1 and 2, stated that “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.
The sponsor of the bill, Dr. Yahaya Oloriegbe, representing Kwara State Senatorial District in his lead debate, noted 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”.
Speaking in an interview, a former council member of the NHIS and Chief Executive Officer of the Ultimate Health Management Services, Lekan Ewenla, noted that the new law was meticulously written to ensure strict compliance and ensure that Nigerians, most especially the vulnerable ones, get access to healthcare services.
He said, “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. Just like 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 the informal sector. Statutorily, every employer of labour should pay 10 percent of basic salaries as medical allowances which are to be converted as premium for workforce.”
The new law repeals the National Health Insurance Act, which has been in existence since 2004.
It will be recalled that the NHIS Act had sought to alleviate poverty in the country by reducing avoidable deaths, ensuring quality health services, and preventing capital flight by those patronising foreign hospitals while also contributing to the nation’s economic development.
The scheme has continued to grow at a snail’s pace, leaving more than 93 percent of Nigerians without access to health insurance.
The NHIS ensures the pooling of funds from different sectors of the economy, with many people contributing money. The essence is to guarantee free health care for the contributors whenever the need arises.