Imo State government has expressed its resolve to make health affordable and accessible to the people by ensuring that the State Health Insurance Scheme kicks off in earnest.
Vin Udokwu, commissioner for Health, who represented the government at the stakeholders meeting to validate the operational guideline of the Imo State Health Insurance Scheme, stated that health is a key pillar to the rebuilding mandate of the present administration.
He noted that Healthcare financing especially through the State Health Insurance Scheme is the only sustainable long term model to fund health care in Nigeria and as such has a prominent place in the agenda of Governor Ihedioha before, during and after the elections.
He pointed that the scheme, though established in April 2018, and launched in October 27, 2018, was yet to flag-off the much needed public (formal) sector enrollment which usually serves as a catalyst to the private and informal sectors.
“We intend to correct this, as we do not have time to dwell on past failures, the formal sector enrolment will be a critical component of the activities for the first 100 days of this administration,” he said.
According to him, the present government has already demonstrated its readiness by paying the N100 million counterpart fund to the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, which will attract over N500 million grant to the state health scheme.
The government he said, has equally secured the buy-in of the organized Labour in the state (NLC, TUC & JNC) to enable workers have a percentage of their salaries deducted monthly as their premium contribution.
He commended the Imo State Health Insurance Agency for fostering a working partnership with the Imo State chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, a major stakeholder in the informal sector, pledging that government will soon take the lead by enrolling public servants and all appointees of the Government to the Scheme to demonstrate its seriousness and a re-launch of the scheme will take place on the 5th of September, 2019.
Highlighting on the objectives of the meeting, John Onyeokoro, Executive Secretary, Imo State Health Insurance Agency, described the scheme as the best health financing model for Imo people. He noted that the Imo State Health Insurance Scheme is in part, an opportunity for the state to co-ordinate with the federal government in implementing the Broad Universal Health Coverage Initiative geared toward the provision of basic minimum package of health services to the people.
When in full operation, enrolled patients will pay only 10 percent of the hospital bills at the designated hospitals. He opined.
Contributing, Uchenna Ewelike, WHO consultant, while introducing the Imo State Health Insurance Agency operational guideline and benefit Package said that the state proposed a minimum of N1000 per person insured per month and has earmarked one per cent of the state’s consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) as equity fund toward coverage of the vulnerable population groups which form the priority groups for the scheme.
It is expected that additional support from NHIS in the form of contribution covering pregnant women and under 5 children will materialize since the state government has fulfilled its obligation of paying the counterpart fee.
Other contributors to the engagement meeting, Sabastian Okwu, WHO co-ordinator, Imo State, R.I. Agbarakwe of Nigeria Medical Association, G.N. Nwambara representing Hospital Management Board, Dr. Chinaka Nwosu (Chairman), Nigeria Optometric Association, Mrs. Gladys Azuike of the Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Okoko D. Okoko, PRO, National Association of Nigerian Traders and the Organized Labour, all of Imo State chapters thanked the governor for his sincerity of purpose and expressed their readiness to partner with the government in the project.
They all agreed that the scheme will drive a lot of transformation in the health sector and ensure that health financing as represented by IMSHIA is driven to its logical end.
On behalf of traditional rulers, the Deputy Chairman, Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Chijioke Okwara (Eshi of Nkwerre) assured that the traditional rulers will sensitize and galvanize support at the grassroots to ensure that the lofty ideals of the scheme are attained.