Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pregnant women, children to get free medicare

Pregnant women, children to get free medicare (Guardian Newspaper)
From Collins Olayinka,
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

TO ensure that Nigeria achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Federal Government will soon begin offering free medical care to pregnant women and children under five years of age.

This was disclosed yesterday by the Health Minister, Prof. Adenike Grange, while unfolding the President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua administration's vision for the health sector in the next four years.

According to the minister, the main thrust of government's plan in the health sector in the next four years include eradication of polio by next year, reduction of maternal mortality and reduction of diseases burden on Nigerians, especially the vulnerable groups.

She said: "It is possible to make free medical care available for pregnant mothers and children under five.

"Indeed, some states are doing that already and they are all good for it because they are generating confidence in the community and the community is coming forward more and more to make their own contributions.

"The Federal Government has already instructed the heads of various parastatals to come up with the mechanisms for doing it. In other words, we have to know the cost and plan for it. This is not an issue of putting in any amount. Apart from this, a lot more is being done at the primary and secondary care levels to prevent the high cost of medical care at the tertiary level."

Grange stated that the Ministry of Health has a package for the maternal and children health, which will guarantee a reduction in maternal mortality in a few years from now. She explained that all the strategies would be applied at various levels of implementation - Federal, states, local governments and the community.

She hinted that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has about 1.5 million enrollees on its stable with 32 Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs).

The Health Minister also painted a worrying picture of most Nigerians' inability to access qualitative healthcare, especially the vulnerable and rural dwellers.

Grange said: "Today there are about 32 HMOs looking after the formal sector both public and private with about 1.5 million enrollees. The role of the NHIS in defining and implementing the regulatory framework in order to achieve universal coverage of health insurance is laudable.

"However a vast majority of Nigerians (about 70 per cent) who are in the informal sector and rural communities cannot afford to pay for the health insurance premiums by themselves.

"The current widespread inability to take part in risk pooling and solidarity schemes continues to endanger this vast proportion of Nigerians as they are unable to access healthcare readily."

Proffering a way out of the disturbing situation, the minister said the National Health Investment Plan was designed to provide a subsidy pool that will be set aside to finance the poor and vulnerable groups.

Specifically, the Community Health Insurance Scheme shall be the platform on which demand-based and output-driven financing of the healthcare delivery system that will allow for better data sets for disease profiling and management will be achieved.

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