The challenge of Universal Health Cover (UHC) in Nigeria
“In Nigeria most hospitals will not administer care until some form of payment guarantee is provided (preferably initial cash deposits)”
InNigeria, the cash and carry system is more prevalent since the total health insurance coverage in the country is under 10%. To put this in perspective, a patient in need of emergency medical care is brought into a hospital and while on the clock (literally, life and death situations), most hospitals will not administer care until some form of payment guarantee is provided (preferably initial cash deposits). Unfortunately, a lot of lives have been lost needlessly to this system.
In 1999, the Nigerian government passed the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, to provide Universal Health Cover (UHC) for all Nigerians. Plagued by funding challenges however, the scheme covers less than 5% of the country’s population. To put this in perspective, Nigeria has a population of 200 million people, less than 5% of this equates to less than 10 million people with access to the National Health Insurance Scheme.
With a lot on the government’s plate competing for its limited resources, the Nigerian people need to once more step up to the challenge and look for creative ways to solve the healthcare crisis. One such option is to come together in numbers and buy health insurance in blocs from the private HMO’s. Health insurance, like any other type of insurance is a numbers game. The more people in a bloc, the higher the pool of funds available and the greater their negotiating power with the health insurance providers. I have been a party to conversations around this strategy where a bloc of 1,000 people can obtain health insurance packages for as low as 7,000 Naira (approximately $20 USD) for a whole year! Now while such packages may not cover cancer care and major surgeries, looking at the statistics of the most frequently occurring ailments treated in hospitals daily, such plans cover for them and much more.