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Mon, Sep

Save the NHIS now

Media reports about the country’s biggest social intervention programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), being on the brink of collapse are worrying.

The scheme is reported to be reeling under a suffocating debt of GH1.2 billion as of March 2017, with service providers threatening to revert to the dreaded cash and carry system of health care.

The NHIS, which has over 11 million subscribers, risks grinding to a halt if alternative funding arrangements are not provided.

If that happens patients may soon have to pay over the counter, and with many Ghanaians struggling to make a living, paying before seeing the doctor will be an unwelcome appointment with death.

The NHIS is an insurance policy established by the government with the goal of providing equitable access and financial coverage for basic healthcare services for Ghanaians.

 But this laudable policy initiative which was begun in 2005 is heavily indebted to many health institutions, including the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), and is gradually grinding to a halt.

 The NHIS owes the CHAG over GH¢200 million for a period of 12 months, leaving the members to cry for help.

 The affected health institutions are consequently calling for a national dialogue on funding for the NHIS in order to find ways to sustain the scheme.

 The Daily Graphic welcomes this call and urges the government to quickly bring all stakeholders in health insurance to the negotiating table to find ways to salvage this all-important national social intervention policy.

We are at pains to recommend an upward adjustment in the premium payment of each beneficiary category of the scheme.

We are aware that Ghanaians are averse to cost increases for services, but this is a necessary evil required to salvage the NHIS.

In fact, the situation, as we are told, is very "grim", with dire implications for women, children and vulnerable groups, especially those in the rural areas.

The proposed national dialogue must also establish if there is an accountability gap in the 2.5 per cent National Health Insurance Levy charged on selected goods and services.

 We need not remind Ghanaians of the hardships associated with the erstwhile cash-and-carry system, under which the health needs of an individual were only attended to after an initial payment for the service was made.

Even in cases where patients had been sent to hospitals in emergency situations, it was required that money was paid at every point of service delivery.

That was the painful reality of the system before the introduction of the NHIS and we cannot return to that era. 

The Daily Graphic, therefore, wants the government to realise how critical the situation is and inject some funds to save the scheme from collapse.

But, as citizens, we must also rise to the call to duty and be prepared to make some sacrifices by paying more to make the scheme work again for the betterment of all.