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FHIS Bill: Matters Arising

Aug, 2021 | By Anthony Ogunleye | ||

There is no better time than now for residents to take advantage of the Federal Capital Territory Health Insurance Scheme (FHIS). With the poor state of the economy which has no doubt put pressure on people's income, making it rather difficult for many Nigerians to eat healthy and access quality health care services, exploring the benefits of the HIS is a no brainer. Indeed, the scheme has been extended to even the informal sector.

Also, under the scheme, the financial burdens on health care are reduced to only 10 percent of the amount charged on services. The essence of health insurance is to reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, debilitating diseases, promote productivity and ensure that citizens of a nation are well covered with Insurance to make for a healthy nation. This is because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.

The precursor to FHIS, which is the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), was majorly instituted to minimize expenses on health and offer access to health care with or without money and consequently attain universal health coverage. The FHIS autonomy Bill is currently awaiting assent by the President. Therefore, bearing in mind the importance of the scheme to achieving universal health coverage as stipulated by World Health Organisation (WHO), the Bill would meet the urgent need for an effective health care system in the Territory.

It seeks to ensure provision of health care service that is devoid of hitches or unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks and will undoubtedly become an essential procedure that would guarantee basic health care needs of FCT residents and Nigerians at large. The FHIS was set up by a Resolution of the FCT Executive Council which domiciled in it the power to function, since the agency is working on insurance and interfaces with other institutions and the public, a legal backing becomes necessary.

Again, the agency's activities require a lot of legal interpretations which cannot be achieved without a proper legal framework. And most importantly, the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) which was set up by the National Health Act, Section 11, stipulates that 1% of Federal Government Consolidated Revenue derived from the Equity Fund should be given to service the BHCPF. One of the requirements to receive the fund is through a statutory platform.

Furthermore, without legal backing, other resolutions coming from the operational guidelines cannot be enforced by the agency. It needs a legal resolution because it might accumulate some forms of liabilities and claims by the public. The autonomy of the FHIS as an agency set up by law will give it more freedom and power to explore, basically due to the fact that it needs less influence to execute basic assignments and would fast-track its operational processes.

Another gain of this pertinent position would be that payment of Health Management Organisations (HMOs), which hitherto had been an issue, will be resolved and donors and sponsors will be attracted into the scheme. Other advantages would be that investors will repose confidence in an autonomous entity than one burdened with external influences. A legal backing will ensure that the informal sector is captured in the scheme.

Enrolment of those in the informal sector has already received a lift as the FCT Administration has begun the enrolment of retirees, who are categorized under the informal sector. . The FHIS has made a progressive move in this regard by securing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FCT Micro Finance Bank which allows any indigent informal enrollee to obtain a loan of N15, 000 for registration to meet the financial requirement. Residents, retirees in particular, should, as matter of necessity, take advantage of this opportunity to access quality health care. No need for any form of hesitation in accessing health care services due to poor or lack of finance on the part of prospective enrollees. No more excuses.

Abuja Digest appeal to the Presidency to hasten the endorsement of the Bill into law. This will further strengthen the FHIS to provide the expected standard services for which it was instituted, while FCTA also should expedite the inclusion of other residents in the informal sector so that they also can enjoy the low hanging fruits of this vital health initiative.

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