The health of a nation depends on the health of the individuals in that country. To ensure good health for the citizenry, governments throughout the world spend huge chunks of their budgets to provide facilities and personnel to ensure that their citizens are in good health.
Many countries also run health insurance schemes that enable subscribers to access health services without much hassle. The introduction of health insurance in Ghana, however, does not appear to have fully met the people’s expectations, as the scheme has been beset with the problem of debts owed to service providers.
That is why it is heartening to hear that the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has settled GH₵908,701,309.61 out of the GH₵1.2 billion owed health service providers and facilities under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The amount is said to be made up of arrears from 2016 to June 2017, representing an up-to-date payment of all arrears owed the providers.
According to the Communications and Media Relations Manager of the NHIA, Mr Barimah Sarpong, the only arrears yet to be cleared were claims tendered in for October to December 2016, which had a number of issues to be clarified before they could be paid.
This must be the best news for patrons, service providers and facilities under the NHIS.
For quite some time now, there have been threats of withdrawal of services by service providers and petitions for the NHIA to save health facilities from collapse due to the huge amounts owed them. We have also witnessed cases where NHIS card bearers had been charged for services and drugs for which they should not have paid under the NHIS.
The Daily Graphic commends the management of the NHIA for the initiatives that had resulted in the settlement of the debts owed the facilities and service providers.
During a visit to Belgium last year, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo told the Ghanaian community about steps being taking to clear the debts within 18 months. That, the President noted, was to prevent the NHIS from collapse.
While applauding the management for the successes chalked up so far, the Daily Graphic urges it to put in place a mechanism to ensure that the scheme operates smoothly.
Such a mechanism will include an arrangement that will ensure that deductions of the NHIS levy are automatically lodged in the accounts of the NHIA.
In this era of digitisation and electronic transaction, we believe the NHIA can develop a common platform where claims can be lodged and verified. It will be easy for such claims to be paid quickly to the service providers and facilities.
The Daily Graphic believes that the NHIS was introduced to ease the burden of Ghanaians and improve our healthcare delivery system. But if one considers the trauma and pain both patrons and service providers have gone through since the scheme was introduced, one wonders if it has actually been beneficial to the people.
The Daily Graphic also urges the management of the NHIA to be proactive in instilling discipline in its management practices, especially to plug the loopholes in revenue generation and disbursement systems.
We are convinced that if these loopholes are sealed and management practices are improved, Ghanaians will be ready to pay more as premium to better address their health challenges.