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Senate seeks mandatory health insurance scheme for all Nigerians

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Senate seeks mandatory health insurance scheme for all NigeriansSenate has viewed the importance of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, and declared that all categories of Nigerians should be beneficiaries.

The NIHS in Nigeria was introduced in 2005 to ensure universal access to good health care services, by protecting families from financial barriers to health care, and ensuring availability of funds to the health sector for improved services.

Speaking at a one-day public hearing for consideration of two health insurance related bills in Abuja, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe (APC Kwara Central), noted that the current NHIS only provided for optional health insurance in the country.

They are a Bill for an act to repeal the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Act 2004, and to enact the National Health Insurance Commission Bill 2019; and a Bill for an Act to provide for the Enhancement and Regulation of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Protect Persons with Mental Health Needs.

The second bill also seeks for Establishment of National Commission for Mental and Substance Abuse Services for effective management of mental health in Nigeria and other related matters 2019.

Senator Oloriegbe said countries that have made substantial progress towards universal health coverage did so because they made health insurance mandatory.

He, however, said making health insurance compulsory without sufficient arrangements for subsidisation would not work.

He said there was the need to make efforts to subsidize the payments of Nigerian who cannot afford the insurance premium.

“The poverty rate in Nigeria is about 35 per cent of the population which translates to well over 60 million   Nigerians are living below poverty line.

“This group of people cannot afford insurance premium, yet we cannot allow them to suffer for health Care services.”

The committee chairman explained that the new proposed bill comprised nine parts and 79 clauses.

Highlights of the bill according to him, includes the establishment of the National Health Insurance Commission, governing council and its functions.

Senator Oloriegbe said the new bills provides for the types of health insurance  schemes, registration and Licenses of various schemes and provision for Basic Health Care Provision Fund, BHPF,offences, penalties, and legal proceedings, among others.

On National Mental Health Bill 2019, he said the bill was auspicious and appropriate for addressing the glowing number of suicide deaths in Nigeria.

According to him, it was unarguable that most of the suicides occur due to substance abuse, mental balance and non-availability of services to control the substance abuse.

He said the bill,  made up of 12 parts and 74 sections  seeks to provide direction for coherent,natural and unified response to  challenges relating to delivery of mental health and substance abuse in Nigeria.

The lawmaker also said the bill seeks to protect the rights and freedom of persons with mental ill-health and substance use related disorders among others.

Stakeholders in the health sector that made submissions via their memoranda commended the Senate on its efforts to review the NHIS act to provide universal health coverage for all Nigerians.

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