Delta state spearheads state health insurance

Gloria Essien, Abuja

A new lease of life appeared on the horizon for the people of Delta State, as the bill for the state’s Contributory Health Commission was signed into law by the state, Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa.

The signing was a brief but significant ceremony at the Government House, Asaba.

The Delta state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa stressed that the only way to achieve Universal Health Coverage in the country was for states to immediately buy into health insurance, which was certain to provide support for the masses to access health care without the financial burden.

Okowa said “it is a testimony to my confidence in health insurance as a veritable bridge between the people and effective health care, that I had the bill for this law prepared well ahead of the inauguration of this government in May 2015”.

While assuring the people of the state of his administration’s determination to sustain the programme for the benefit of all, the Governor paid glowing tribute to NHIS, for its technical and funding support that has brought about the success so far recorded.

Massive Patronage

The governor also acknowledged the pressing need for aggressive advocacy across the state, to assist citizens understand the process and benefits of the programme, as well as achieve massive patronage by the people, promising to ensure that this is done through all available communication channels.

The acting Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Mr. Femi Akingbade was full of praises for the Governor, whom he described as a trail blazer in the responsibility of government to provide easy access to efficient, effective, affordable and quality healthcare to the people without being limited by financial constraints.

He particularly applauded the speed with which the bill was processed by the state House of Assembly, describing it as a demonstration of a responsible legislative posture that expresses commitment to the welfare and socio-economic progress of the people of the state, urging other state legislatures in the country to borrow a leaf from Delta.

Mr. Akingbade expressed delight with the collaboration between NHIS and Delta state, especially in terms of the technical and financial support of the Scheme to the state towards the establishment of a health insurance agency in the state, which has now proven to be a worthy exercise.

National Health Act

He recalled the passion and devotion of the Governor to the emergence of the National Health Act during his successful watch as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, describing the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission as a strategic implementation of the Act in the state.

The NHIS boss however reminded the people of Delta that the establishment of the Commission was only a first step in the right direction, as the main challenge of effective implementation of the Contributory Healthcare Scheme, created by the new law lay ahead.

He described health insurance as the best form of health care financing in the world, with special reference to meeting the healthcare needs of the poor, the vulnerable and the socially excluded, while expressing confidence that the programme will thrive under Governor Okowa.

With the signing of the bill into law, Delta becomes the second state in the country after Lagos, to have established a statutory agency for health insurance.

This is in exact consonance with the new policy thrust of the National Health Insurance Scheme to devolve its sole regulatory powers to state governments to enable them run their own health insurance agencies, as part of strategies to hasten the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria.

NHIS is currently driving a nationwide advocacy to the leadership of state governments to sell the concept of its State Social Health Insurance Programme (SSHIP), which seeks to encourage state governments to establish health insurance agencies of their own, backed with appropriate laws which make health insurance mandatory.

Some of the products offered by the Scheme include assistance for capacity building, technical support and counterpart funding.