Over 41,000 vulnerable persons enrolled on NHIS in Benue – Dr Okoh

By Sunday Iduh

Benue State Coordinator of National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Dr Christopher Okoh has disclosed that over 41,000 vulnerable persons have been enrolled under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the state.

He made this known Thursday at a Strategic Media Parley/Engagement with journalists on the new NHIA Act held at the NHIA Benue Office in Makurdi with the theme: Deepening the Understanding of NHIA new Act, Policy and reforms.

Dr Okoh said 150 beneficiaries were selected from each of the 276 council wards in the state for the health insurance cover.

According to the state coordinator, “the insurance cover for the vulnerable groups is being 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.

“This intervention would cover the large number of vulnerable individuals, who are not able to pay for health insurance premiums.” he noted.

He disclosed that the new National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2022 which was signed into law on May 19, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari,  repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, 2004 and would ensure universal health coverage for all Nigerians.

He said: “The change in name from National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to National Health Insurance Authority (NHIS) has a lot of implications to the current and the future of health insurance in Nigeria. The new act establishing NHIA makes NHIS an implementer, a regulator, an insurer and also an investor.

“It gives more powers to the NHIS  to sanction erring stakeholders. The health care facilities and the HMOs (Health Maintenance Organisations) as supposed to be regulated and were hitherto on the board of the NHIS. They have been removed from the board. The board has also been made more representative with a lot of public interest in place.

“NHIA has been given more powers to sanction. More so, there are extant provisions in the law that stipulates penalties for erring stakeholders in addition to the operational guidelines.

“The NHIA law also gives the NHIS access to two funds: National Health Insurance Authority fund and a vulnerable groups fund.

“The vulnerable groups fund is going to be utilised to cover the vulnerables using the state health insurance agencies within the states.

“The NHIA law also ensures mandatory registration of all actors in the health insurance land scape. All those who will act between the enrollees and the insurance authorities would be licenced by the National Health Authority. It will include third party administrators like the health maintenance organisations, mutual health associations, insurance brokers, banks and even Civil Society Organisations that would be involved in the transaction between the enrollees and insurance operatives.

“The new law has also prescribed fines for those that will be acting illegally. The law is going to change the face of health insurance in the country. It has made it mandatory for every state in Nigeria to have the state health insurance agency. The vulnerable groups fund will also be used to integrate all the health insurance schemes in the country.

“The law equally stipulates that every state insurance agency must have an ICT that works hand in hand with one at the National Health Insurance Authority so that they would be exchange of data which would be important for planning in the future and also for the modification of the Programme.”

The state coordinator who said the new NHIA law will bring a new blood into a new industry that will take Nigeria to the universal health coverage that was needed, appealed to enrollees to always avail NHIA with feedbacks of their experiences with health care providers for appropriate action.

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