Many Nigerians are not buying into any health plan as a result of lack of awareness of the benefits they stand to get. The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Avon HMO, Ms Adesimbo Ukiri, in an interview with Rebecca Ejifoma, urged Nigerians to take advantage of the various health plans, as they have been proven to reduce issues of healthcare and in turn save lives.
What does it mean to have health plan?
A health plan is a kind of subscription, which some people will describe as health insurance. Simply put, it is something you subscribe to so that when you need healthcare services, you won’t have to deep your hand into your pocket. Because sicknesses, medical emergencies do not give warnings. Therefore, a health plan enables you to have assurance that any time any illness comes, you won’t have to pay for it rather the health care subscription will take care of it.
How does it work?
This is a service offered by Health Management Organisations (HMOs). The HMO pulls together people’s resources to create a pool that will take care of the enrollees. We know that everybody cannot be ill at the same time with the same illness, requiring the same level of spending. As people make an annual subscription, it covers the illness anyone of them falls into during the course of the year.
Technically speaking, pure health insurance looks at you as an individual, access your risks and levels you with a premium. HMOs are different from health insurance, which underwrites risks on an individual basis. A health insurance policy reimburses you for whatever you spend in a hospital.
How affordable is a health plan?
It is very affordable. There is a plan that starts from as low as N15, 000 yearly (N1,200 monthly). Because we need to make the pool in order to pay for somebody’s bill so it is paid on yearly basis. This covers all primary care as well as minor and intermediate surgeries. Each subscriber gets a primary care physician in a nearby hospital to his or her home.
Who should get a health plan?
Everybody who is out of school – the same way you set aside money for your perfume, body cream and others, you should plan for your health. Married or single – as you plan for house rent, school fees, do likewise for your health. The moment you have done these three, relax. With a health plan, you don’t need to think of which relative to call for financial help during emergencies. All you need to do is to go straight to the hospital. Even at midnight, you can call on your doctor and you will be attended to.
Why would anyone not want this peace of mind? However, because of what we call ‘adverse selection’, there is a waiting period for surgeries. You have to be on the plan for one year before you can go for surgery. This is to avoid people registering and immediately going for surgery.
How accessible is your reach?
We have hospitals in every town and state across the country. Except for some far away remote villages, where we may not have team hospitals for now. We are everywhere. We have our 24/7 customer centres that are there with a turnaround time of five minutes.
We, at Avon HMO, can cater for every Nigerian no matter his income level or social status. We have international health plans that we do in conjunction with international healthcare centres. No matter where you are in the world, you can access healthcare service. Even if an emergency happens to any of our subscribes and requires him to be flown abroad, then he will have it.
What is the common reason Nigerians shy away from health plan?
Lack of knowledge and awareness are factors. More than 99 per cent of Nigerians do not know the value and the benefits of health plans. Many Nigerians think it is unaffordable.
Meanwhile, there is a certain category of people who know it is affordable but do not want to use their money for it. They believe they can’t fall sick. Do you know that the life expectancy for Nigerians is 54 years for males and 52 for females? Whoever lives above this is living on a borrowed life. But in other developed countries, life expectancy is above 70 and 80 years respectively.
There are speculations that Nigerians die young often of illnesses. How so?
It is because we don’t take care of our health from young. If you take good care of your health when you are young, you can live to a ripe, old age. It is what we do to our body when we are strong men and women that we pay for when we are old. I will like the life expectancy of Nigeria to move to 70, 80 and even 90.
Could this be a factor for the many preventable deaths that occur?
There are so many deaths happening around us that are preventable. A health plan takes away that financial burden. Though, there are levels of access. Some plans cover cancer, some do not. But be rest assured that there are plans that take care of different health care needs.
When we are young, hale and hearty, we do not look after our health. The fact is that if you have a car and you don’t service it, it will definitely break down at some point. So it is with the human body.
How to know a genuine HMO
You will know HMOs that pay well. How the HMOs treat the hospitals will depend on how the hospital will treat the patients. So, a good place to start is to ask hospitals about their thoughts on HMOs. They will open up to you about it.
Then look at the financial status of that HMO. Visit its websites to know its track record of sound investments and its management team. Since this is where you will put your health, check very well before you subscribe into such plan.
What informed the establishment of Avon HMO?
Avon belongs to a wider group of company called Heirs Holdings Limited, which invests in key sectors in Nigeria to cause transformation and economic growth across the country. Such include: the power sector, financial services, real estate, hospitality, agriculture and health care. That informed Avon HMO.
We want to see how the indices of the health of Nigeria will improve; for maternal mortality rate to decrease; eradication of malaria and for every child to be vaccinated. We want every adult to have a better lifestyle and we desire everybody to have access to healthcare services without the financial burden. And, we want people to be saved from catastrophic expenses from bankruptcy or selling their houses to pay some hospital bills. We are a strong advocate of wellness.