NHIS: Are Nigerians even bothered about healthcare?

by Alexander O. Onukuwe

Generally speaking, the current NHIS problems have not raised as much concern on social media as, say, the switch of Etisalat to 9Mobile; it’s not even seen as a big an issue as a Friday evening spat between Hushpuppi and Phyno.

The complexity of the Health Insurance business does not really make it easy for many to follow in the conversations about it. Granted that the matter of leadership and corruption should be straightforward and easy to follow up on. The reality is that the mass unavailability of quality healthcare more or less makes it an issue for which many will not sleep over.

That is a sorry state of affairs. The United States is far advanced and ahead of Nigeria, and so it may not always be appropriate to use them as an example. However, there is probably no other issue in the country that steers public debate as much as the issue of Healthcare. President Trump literally drove his campaign on the promise to “Repeal and Replace” ObamaCare – the Affordable Act Legislation signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010.

The Senate Republicans have struggled to come up with a health bill that will gain acceptance from the American people. The debate around healthcare in the US is so robust that even some members of the Republican party have not been in agreement on the terms and conditions for the new law that should replace the Affordable Care Act.

Back to Nigeria: What actually is the NHIS and what are its duties? There will be no lecture on that in this piece but much of the current trouble is that the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole believes the agency should not be a Health Management Organisation but the regulator of the industry. Professor Usman Yusuf, the suspended boss, was apparently reported to the Senate by HMOs while other petitions have been brought against him on account of questionable administrative expenditures.

But one is tempted to ask: all of this fight, over which healthcare exactly? Because, at the end of the day, the big politicians, when they fall sick, instantly fly themselves to the best facilities abroad, while the lower class are left to fighting for their fate on the pages of GoFundMe and other online fundraising platforms.

It would really have been nice to have the front pages of newspapers buzzing with this issue of the struggle over the leadership of Nigeria’s healthcare industry, as is similar in other countries. But the people do not have the healthcare in the first place, so why should they be bothered about the industry?

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