The Senate yesterday called for mandatory health insurance for all Nigerians irrespective of their social status. Chairman, Senate Committee on Heath, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, made the call in Abuja at a public hearing on a bill for an Act to repeal the National Health Insurance Scheme Act 2004 and to enact the National Health Insurance Commission Bill.
Health insurance is optional under the current Act. Oloriegbe said health insurance must be made mandatory and premium payments be subsidized for the poor.
“The uncertainty of disease or illness has made it necessary for the need of insurance and its works on certain fundamental principles – the principle of cross subsidization and solidarity where the rich support the poor, the well support the sick and the ‘haves’ support the ‘have nots’.
“This can only be achieved through making insurance mandatory and subsidization for those unable to afford insurance premiums,” he said. He said the country had made almost no progress in reducing maternal mortality. Quoting figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, he said Nigeria records about 900,000 maternal and child mortalities each year.
He said Nigeria contributed 14 percent of all maternal deaths globally, second only to India at 17 percent. “Neither is it surprising that Nigeria contributes 13 percent of all under five deaths globally, again second only to India at 21 percent. “This is not acceptable and we need to begin to reverse this trend. It is now clear that the need for healthcare reforms is very necessary,” he added.