Health Insurance Scheme boss tasks HMOs on service delivery

Gloria Essien, Abuja

The Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf has called on all Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to go back to the original mandate of providing care to the Nigerian people.

He was speaking at a meeting with the HMOs in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The Executive Secretary urged all HMOs to serve the enrolees diligently and put aside all inefficiency, corruption and impunity.

He said that the time has come for the enrolees to reap the benefits of their insurance contributions rather than being treated shabbily at hospitals.

“The enrolled has no one to complain to. You guys are in Lagos, they call you, you are rude, and you end the call. Yet you collect their money. It is their money. Not your money. Not government money. They give you easy money and when they go to the hospitals, they are treated like trash, It’s got to change people” Prof. Yusuf said.

He said that of all agencies in the health sector, the NHIS has the most potential to change the life of the people and the HMOs must assist in reaching out to the populace through better services.

“This is my prayer, I appeal to you all to make meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of the people. We will do this. I want to see actions. I want to be able to hold HMOs responsible and say what have you done for the enrolees this quarter, not what has the enrolee done for you. I want the HMOs to go and do their private thing. Why are we subsidizing you?”.

He said that the HMOs have been feeding fat from the contributions of the enrolees without rendering services.

The Executive Secretary said “enough is enough. There’s a new sheriff in town. I have the law behind me, I have the financial muscle and I have the good will of the president. So I will employ them to satisfy the enrolees”.

He also emphasised that the major goal of the NHIS is universal health coverage and the money paid by the enrolees must be used solely for them.

On the issue of equitable distribution of enrolees among the HMOs Prof. Yusuf said “when the NHIS started there were very few HMOs and it was the NHIS that distributed lives to those HMOs and helped them to start and they have overtime grown bigger, so new ones have come and they want lives. It’s just like old bank, the new banks came, and the new banks could not have survived if they have not been innovative. No more free lives, not from us, not from the government. They need to go and market themselves and get more lives. End of story”.

He also cautioned politicians who believe that the NHIS is an ATM where they could access free funds. Saying “it is no longer business as usual”

He added that at the rate the NHIS and the HMOs are going, achieving universal health coverage in Nigeria would be difficult as only about three per cent of the country’s population are at the moment covered.

Some of the Health Maintenance Organisations present at the meeting agreed with the submissions of the Executive Secretary.

They however appealed for equal distribution of enrolees between the old and new HMOs.

The managing Director of the United Healthcare Dr. Kolawole Owoka, said that the position of the new Executive Secretary was a step in the right direction.

He however disagreed with the fact that all enrolees were not remitting
the mandatory one percent to the NHIS.

He therefore called on state governments to embrace the scheme.

“The formal sector has never failed for one month. We believe that to improve coverage, state governments need to enlarge their coverage too,” he said.

On his part, Dr. Aminu Muhammed, another HMO operator, said his own agency was doing very well by doing the right thing.

The meeting took a look at most of the issues affecting health insurance in Nigeria.

It also served as a meet and greet for new Executive Secretary who is barely three weeks in office.

Nnenna.O