Benue State Coordinator of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Oche Otalu, has decried the low health insurance status of the state indigenes, stating that out of its five million people, only 85,000 have health insurance.
He disclosed this when he led other officials on an advocacy visit to Governor Samuel Ortom at the weekend in Makurdi, noting that there was low awareness of the benefits of NHIS programmes in the state.
He appealed to Ortom to provide the needed logistics support to the state House of Assembly to carry out public hearings on health insurance, stressing that the establishment of NHIS would facilitate affordable healthcare for Benue people by reducing poor health outcomes.
“This will reduce the incidence of catastrophic expenditure, poverty and improved productivity; create employment and provide protection from health risks, financial protection and safety for families in the state,” he said.
Otalu hinted that the state has capacity to attract a minimum of N3.8 billion per month if the agency was established there, adding that Benue State only realises N48 million monthly from the NHIS.He explained that the NHIS was a social security system meant to guarantee the provision of needed health services to persons on the payment of contributions at regular intervals.
Responding, Ortom promised to support implementation of the NHIS in the state, even as he pledged to do everything to facilitate the passage of the state’s Health Insurance Agency bill.“The agency will enable the state benefit from the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and other National Health Insurance Scheme interventions and technical support,” he said.
Represented by his deputy, Engineer Benson Abounu, the governor directed the setting up of a technical working group to develop the policy documents and operational guidelines for the proposed agency, as well as recommend a structure to set it up.
He stated that at a time of escalating cost of healthcare services in the country, government owed it a duty to device a better way of addressing the challenges of access to health care services by majority of the people who are unable to afford expensive healthcare.