The Chief Executive Officer of Avon HMO, Mrs Adesimbo Ukiri, has described Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a key element that will greatly enhance the Nigerian economy.
According to her, the benefits of UHC will spiral to the country’s economy. She stated: “With Universal Health Coverage, all people, irrespective of income status or social class, will have access to good quality healthcare services at their point of need. Whether they are treating, preventing or recovering from illness, no one will have to risk financial ruin trying to access healthcare services.”
Ukiri listed some of the factors that have hindered the achievement of UHC in Nigeria to include: low awareness levels and resulting poor penetration of health insurance in Nigeria, the prevalence of out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare, uneven quality of healthcare services from a highly fragmented healthcare provision sector, poorly coordinated and inadequately staffed hospital systems, and the trending high incidence of medical tourism. All these, she said, are further compounded by a history of distrust among key stakeholder groups within the healthcare sector, which hinders collaboration and cohesiveness, limiting the ability of the sector to push forward the UHC agenda.
However, Mrs. Ukiri noted with optimism that the prospects for achieving UHC in Nigeria have recently taken a turn for the better. In March this year, UHC received a much needed boost with the Presidential Summit on Universal Healthcare held in Abuja and the subsequent summit declarations. In addition, the NHIS Executive Secretary, Dr. Olufemi Thomas, has begun to implement industry-wide initiatives to increase health insurance coverage from its current estimated 4 per cent of the Nigerian population to 30 per cent by end of 2015.
“Avon HMO is committed to playing a key role in accelerating UHC in Nigeria,” stressed Mrs. Ukiri. “One of our key focus areas has been educating the public about the affordability and necessity of health insurance, both to expand the market’s reach and to ensure a much-needed, steady flow of revenue to the country’s healthcare facilities. This will enable the facilities deliver standardized and higher quality of care, as well as better clinical outcomes, at more efficient prices. It will also ultimately lead to HMOs being able to provide wider benefit coverage under their health plans at lower annual premiums.”
Mrs. Ukiri explained that only countries with a healthy population can effectively sustain economic growth. The most recent WHO report on key health indices puts life expectancy in Nigeria at 53 years, and 371 out of 1,000 Nigerians will die between the ages of 15 and 50 years.
“Turning these indices around,” says Mrs Ukiri, “will result in the healthy and highly productive workforce Nigeria desperately needs to enable increased levels of activity across our various economic sectors.