Friday Olokor, Abuja
The National Assembly said it had commenced plans to remove the National Health Insurance Scheme and other agencies requiring emergency situations from the Treasury Single Account initiative of the Federal Government.
The lawmakers attributed the decision to the impediments encountered in its implementation.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health, Chike Okafor, stated this during a three-day NHIS management retreat in Kaduna with the theme ‘Repositioning the NHIS towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.’
According to him, due to the TSA, the quest by the NHIS to implement universal health insurance for the teeming Nigerian population hangs dangerously in the balance.
Okafor, who was represented by the Deputy Chairman of the committee, Muhammad Usman, said the House of Representatives would soon initiate a bill to effect such changes.
He said, “It is the legislative agenda of the 8th Assembly to ensure that easy access to health care for all Nigerians is achieved and it is my resolve to give every necessary legislative assistance to ensure the realisation of the scheme’s statutory mandate.
“As such, it is my resolve as a legislator to call for the removal of the National Health Insurance Fund from the TSA as it is wrong, based on the Act establishing the scheme. This fund is contributors’ fund and should not be warehoused in the TSA but should be reinvested and the proceeds used for cross-subsidy in the informal sector. I would like to introduce a legislative bill to remove it and will need your support in achieving that.
“Such commitment to the future of Nigeria will be the greatest achievement by the health sector and the 8th Assembly Legislative Health Agenda. Sadly to note that the feedback we get today from the beneficiaries of the scheme has turned out to be a story of ‘water water everywhere but no water to drink’.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso, expressed the readiness of the Senate to “enact a law that will exempt the NHIS and other agencies with critical needs from the TSA.”
He contended that the importance of the NHIS would be lost “should the TSA continue to impede the implementation of the programme” as it would deny Nigerians affordable health care services.
The Executive Secretary, NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, regretted the poor performance of the scheme.
According to him, misappropriation of funds in the NHIS had so far surpassed the oil subsidy scam.
He said, “What we have here is not health care financing; this is worse than fuel subsidy. I need to see monies returned by HMOs, through the NHIS that were not used.
“The waste I see, the impunity I see, and the political patronage I see make me want to throw up. The President’s mandate is crystal clear: ‘Go and make the NHIS work for all Nigerians’.
“And all I need, not the bunch of providers or HMOs that do not work, are a few good ones. If it would take just one, that is the one I will work with; I will have no hesitation to delist any HMO or health care provider that does not work.
“This is not a threat, I get passionate about this. We’ve not been good custodian of what we are entrusted with. Our number is pathetic; it is annoying, the number of Nigerians not covered.”
The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said the state had continued to invest in universal health care as a top priority of the state.
El-Rufai, who was represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Paul Dogo, assured the NHIS that the state government would also partner the scheme in order to improve the overall access to health care services of citizens across the state.