Abuja, Nigeria. December 17th, 2019 – The United Nation’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day was observed on 12th December 2019. It is a yearly event that raises awareness of the need for a strong and resilient health system and universal health coverage. UHC ensures all people, everywhere, can get the quality health services they need without facing financial hardship. It is rooted in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that seeks to ensure healthy lives for all at all ages. In Nigeria, the health system has been evolving over the years through various health care reforms aimed at tackling the public health challenges in the country. For instance, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was launched in 2005 with the focus of promoting affordable healthcare to Nigerians. However, news reports and statistics have shown that the scheme only covers less than 10 per cent of Nigerians and that three-quarters of health care spending in the country was out of pocket payments made to health providers, leaving most of the vulnerable population of the country at the risk of catastrophic health spending.
In commemoration of the Universal Health Coverage Day, NOIPolls conducted a public opinion poll to assess the perception of Nigerians regarding health insurance in the country. The main crux from the poll revealed that a vast majority of Nigerians (83 per cent) do not have access to any form of health insurance having to pay out of pocket to access health care services. Most Nigerians, however, (70 per cent) in this category expressed their willingness to pay a small amount of money to enable them access service whenever they fall ill. This implies that there is low access to the National Health Insurance Scheme across the country and calls for intensive sensitization and mass mobilisation of the populace as 50 per cent opined that they are not aware of the Health Insurance Scheme whose primary
objective is to make health care accessible and affordable to all Nigerians.
There is an urgent need to amend the NHIS Act and enact laws to make the scheme more accessible and compulsory for all Nigerians as this would ensure adequate monitoring, efficiency, proper utilization of the health facilities and ultimately better health care delivery system in the country. Also, while it is critical for government to re-evaluate its current budgetary allocation to the health sector; it is also important for stakeholders to consider more sustainable ways to finance of the sector through health insurance, and to mobilise the public to increase the pool of funds available for investment into the sector.
Therefore, there is a need for an urgent expansion of social health insurance across the country to guarantee financial risk protection to the population and reduce the incidence of out-of-pocket payment. The NHIS needs to support the states to establish their State health insurance schemes and contribute to funding the coverage of the vulnerable population groups namely – young children under age 5, pregnant women not covered by formal health schemes, the elderly population and the economically indigent population. These are some of the key findings from the Health Insurance Poll conducted in the week commencing 9th December 2019.