General News of Thursday, 5 March 2015
The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has confirmed that the Health Ministry has indeed released an amount of Ghc 1.06 million for the payment of the scheme’s service providers.
The Authority, however, said there is a challenge in reconciling what component of the amount should be used to settle arrears for 2013 and 2014 which the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance are scheduled to meet to reconcile the figures.
The Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, on Wednesday announced to Parliament that his outfit remitted Ghc1.06 million into the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years although the nation was experiencing serious economic challenges.
This has, however, raised questions as to why the Authority has been unable to pay service providers nationwide, who have been threatening to withdraw their services to NHIS card holders.
In an interview on the Citi Breakfast Show, the Chief Executive Officer of the NHIA, Sylvester Mensah pointed out that “there appears to be some misunderstanding over figures,” but he indicated that the NHIA “will accept every blame for the misinformation because the discussions in Parliament yesterday [Wednesday] centered on releases to the Health Insurance Authority.”
The NHIA boss accepted that the Scheme is facing a number of challenges which basically has to do largely with the structure of the scheme “and this is not the first time we are raising this…”
He mentioned that the benefit package the scheme is currently running is the main problem, “which appears to be too generous than what is in other countries.”
The exemption regime of the scheme, he said, was also a major contributory factor to the problems the scheme was facing.
Under the current exemption regime, all persons under 18 years are exempted, all 70 years and above, all SSNIT contributors and SSNIT pensioners, all LEAP beneficiaries and until recently, all persons with disability and the very people whom the scheme is set up for – the poor are also exempted.
This in effect means almost 70 percent of the entire membership of the NHIS is exempted from the payment of premiums “and this is an issue that we need to look at.”
“These are all structural issues that are being worked on and the expectation is that perhaps, in the next couple of years, we will have a bit structured health insurance scheme,” he said.
Mr. Mensah disclosed that the Authority has had several stakeholder meetings on the matter to collectively think through the way forward and “we have gone beyond this to prescribe possible strategies to get out of this.”
Mr. Mensah further mentioned that his outfit no longer has problems with regards to delays in the release of funds.
“Funds are usually released three months in arrears and so at any point in time, the Health Insurance Scheme will owe its providers three months arrears,” he said.
According to him, the NHIA only experiences problems when the payment of the money “extends beyond the three months because the three months itself is a little burdensome for our providers.”
“We sympathize with our providers and we want to assure them that we are not oblivious to the challenges they are going through and as we speak now, a lot of efforts are being done to ensure that some resources are made available to clear the arrears,” he remarked.