There is need for Nigeria to go back to the drawing board in the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) according to the Director of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Sani Aliyu.

Premium Times reported Friday that Aliyu expressed sadness that the budget for health insurance in the UK ‘was bigger than the entire of Nigeria’.

He said the NHIS in Nigeria was not designed in ‘a ‘progressive way’ and that it should begin by ‘appropriating health care from the vulnerable perspective by making sure the poor get quality health care.’

Mr. Aliyu said this in his keynote speech on Thursday at the commencement of a two-day national health dialogue in Abuja.

The establishment of the NHIS came about by the desire of the federal government to better serve the health needs of the population. The scheme made it possible for the insured to seek immediate health care whenever there is imminent need to see a physician.

However, the scheme which was set up to ensure financing of health care costs and management for Nigerians through the pooling and judicious use of financial resources to ensure cost burden sharing for patients through pre-payment mechanisms has been enmeshed in several controversies.

Since its establishment 12 years ago, the number of Nigerians covered by the scheme is about 1.5 percent of the population who are mostly civil servants and corporate workers in the private sector.

In his contribution on Thursday, the NACA boss said it was wrong to begin the insurance scheme with the government workers.

Mr. Aliyu while comparing the poor arrangement of Nigeria’s health scheme with that of UK, Ghana and Gabon said taxation plays important role in funding health insurance.

“If it is a voluntary contribution, it is not going to work because it generates often little or nothing.

“The NHIS budget for the UK is more than the entire budget of the Nigerian government and they get this money from various levels of taxation.

“Ghana and Gabon increased taxes on items on luxury goods or health hazard goods such as tobacco.”

Mr. Aliyu said the best plan for NHIS funding is the sustainable source for funds.

He said NHIS needs to be restructured with a new framework.

“Nigeria went down the NHIS route the easiest way and it is time we come back to the drawing board to make it work. We need to create a sustainable funding source.

Mr. Aliyu tasked the government to evolve a strategy that will provide for the vulnerable group.

“Only 1.7 per cent of the country’s population is covered by NHIS. States should come up with plans to key in on health insurance,” Mr. Aliyu added

NHIS deals with two major components; Health Maintenance Organisations, HMOs and Health Service Providers, HSPs.

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