Buhari signs health insurance bill; what does this mean for the average Nigerian? [Explainer]

About 8 out of 10 Nigerians do not have a health insurance cover in Africa’s largest economy

Buhari signs health insurance bill; what does this mean for the average Nigerian? [Explainer]

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2022.

Mr Buhari, who disclosed this on his Twitter handle at exactly 5:04 p.m on Thursday, May 19, 2022, said the development is part of his administration’s efforts to ensure health coverage for Nigerians.

The National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2022 will “ensure coverage of 83 million poor Nigerians who cannot afford to pay premiums,” the president explained in an emailed statement.

He said the new bill repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Act which has been in existence since 2004.

As part of our healthcare reforms, I have signed into law the recently passed National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2022, which repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme Act. We will ensure the full implementation of the new Act, to provide coverage for all Nigerians,” he said.

The health insurance scheme is one mostly described as fraudulent and an agency that lacks transparency and accountability. As of 2018, two past heads of the agency were accused of fraud.

  • To reduce huge out-of-pocket spending for health services, which often leaves average and vulnerable Nigerians in penury, the government established the NHIS in 2004.
  • Millions of Nigerians still lack access to quality healthcare services.
  • The previous scheme failed to cover key treatments for serious ailments such as cancer which is very expensive.

About 8 out of 10 Nigerians do not have a health insurance cover in Africa’s largest economy, according to a November survey by NOI Polls, the country’s leading polling agency. A majority of Nigerians pay cash if they have to visit a health care facility when ill.

The law sets up a vulnerable group fund that will be financed through a basic health care provision fund, health insurance levy, special intervention fund, as well as any investment proceeds, donations and gifts to the authority.

In a statement subsequently issued by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, Mr Buhari said a fund will be set up to ensure coverage of 83 million Nigerians who cannot afford to pay premiums as recommended by the Lancet Nigeria Commission.

He said the “vulnerable group fund” will be financed through the basic health care provision fund, health insurance levy, special intervention fund, as well as any investment proceeds, donations, and gifts to the authority.

He said this will cover the large number of vulnerable individuals who are not able to pay health insurance premiums.

  • Free services

Health insurance protects you from unexpected, high medical costs. You pay less for covered in-network health care, even before you meet your deductible. You get free preventive care, like vaccines, screenings, and some check-ups, even before you meet your deductible.

  • Fight Lifestyle Diseases

Lifestyle diseases are on the rise, especially among people under the age of 45. Illnesses like diabetes, obesity, respiratory problems, heart disease, all of which are prevalent among the older generation, are now rampant in younger people too. Some contributing factors that lead to these diseases include a sedentary lifestyle, stress, pollution, unhealthy eating habits, gadget addiction and undisciplined lives.

  • To deal with medical inflation

As medical technology improves and diseases increase, the cost for treatment rises as well. And it is important to understand that medical expenses are not limited to only hospitals. The costs for doctor's consultation, diagnosis tests, ambulance charges, operation theatre costs, medicines, room rent, etc. are also continually increasing. All of these could put a considerable strain on your finances if you are not adequately prepared. By paying a relatively affordable health insurance premium each year, you can beat the burden of medical inflation while opting for quality treatment, without worrying about how much it will cost you.

  • To safeguard your family 

Consider your ageing parents, who are likely to be vulnerable to illnesses, as well as dependent children. Ensuring they get the best medical treatment, should anything happen to them, is something you would not have to stress about if you have a suitable health cover. Research thoroughly, talk to experts for an unbiased opinion and make sure you get a plan that provides all-round coverage.

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