Health financing is a core function of health systems that can enable progress towards universal health coverage by improving effective service coverage and financial protection.
Today, millions of people do not access health services due to the cost. Many others receive poor quality services, even when they pay for them out-of-pocket. Carefully designed and implemented health financing policies can help address these issues, and one such policy is health insurance.
And to bring the issue home, last week the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, announced that the treatment for childhood cancers and the cost of Hydroxyurea, a drug used for the treatment of sickle cell anaemia, were now covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
He said reimbursement for childhood cancers under the NHIS became effective on July 1, 2022, and that efforts were also being made to add other forms of cancer treatment to the list of ailments covered by the NHIS.
“We have started with four cancers among children for now, but we are determined to expand in due course. As we know, incremental improvement is always the way and exponential impact should not be compromised when it comes to health care,” he said.
Statistics from the Ghana Health Service show that about 1,200 children are diagnosed of childhood cancers in Ghana annually.
Parents spend between $1,000 and $10,000 on the treatment of childhood cancer.
It is, therefore, heartwarming that we, as a nation, are putting our children first and protecting them and their dreams.
Sometimes it is good to look at the value of investments, not just the cost.
Health financing is a key challenge to patients and families of these victims, as the treatment of these cancers spans between four months and three years, and this intervention comes as a huge relief which will also help improve the survival rate of children diagnosed of these diseases.
A diagnosis of cancer often appears to be a death sentence, affecting not just the subject but also the rest of the family and the entire community, unless well-structured and well-resourced interventions are put in place to lift the burden.
For a health project such as this great childhood cancer service to continue, all stakeholders need to bring their resources, such as expertise, awareness creation, early detection and treatment, on board.
Successful outcomes of projects like this are what will keep things sustained. Seeing that our children are being diagnosed early, treated and recovering will certainly encourage the National Health Insurance Authority and all other partners to continue to fund the service. We all have a role to play.
We cannot also be oblivious of the importance of data in ensuring that the right investments are made and so we urge all the multiple players in health care that the right health data are provided to inform some of the investments.
Clinical trials, research and budgeting all require data, but data are not valuable if they are just that and not useful. We should, therefore, prioritise data capture related to childhood cancers and other cancers to ensure that investments in health care are well informed. In this case, every cedi we spend is well-thought through and data will enable us to do so.
In order to access quality care for children, we encourage all Ghanaians to enrol onto the scheme and constantly renew their membership to help sustain the NHIS to ensure an effective funding stream.
As a major vehicle to attain universal health coverage, we call on the government to ensure the timely release of funds to sustain this intervention. Steps should also be taken to curb the funding gap and delay in paying service providers.
The Daily Graphic believes that there is the need for further expansion of the NHIS benefit package to cover other forms of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including hypertension and mental-related ones as NCDs contribute largely to the overall high mortality rate in the country.