The Nigerian Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS or Scheme) was one of the first projects created by former president Olusegun Obasanjo when he became the civilian President in 1999. Written into law that year, the program was further expanded via legislative provisions in 2004 and finally launched in 2005. Since then, the program has apparently disbursed over N23 billion to registered health care providers participating in the plan. The Scheme now covers 3 million Nigerians and according to the NHIS Director, Dogo Mohammed, all Nigerians will have universal insurance coverage in 2015.
is necessary and could impact an untold amount of lives.
BUT, LET'S NOT GET TOO EXCITED
Despite the reality that the Federal Government clearly has a practical and already implemented plan to provide access to health care, there remains many issues that must be concurrently tackled to make the rewards of future universal health care truly beneficial. The fact remains that Nigeria is 174 out of 191 countries ranked according to the life expectancy rates as listed in the 2007 CIA World Factbook, falling behind Haiti and Somalia. Nigerian life expectancy is only 47 years and has not improved but dipped since independence in 1960. Much more undoubtedly needs to be done to improve the condition of health and health care in the nation.
In order for Nigerians to benefit from universal health care, Nigeria obviously needs functioning institutions of health that can cater to the complex reality of the people's health needs. Institutions that do not just cater to curing citizens but also focus on preventative health care issues. These institutions must practice health research on a level competitive with research hospitals in the many countries Nigeria's President and other 'leaders' flock to for check ups and surgery. In addition, they must cultivate and incorporate our knowledge of local remedies into a general health approach that will not only improve our health care but extend lives and living conditions. Consequently, money must be pumped into the Nigerian school system, by the federal and state governments, to produce the skilled individuals needed in the country and limit the number of trained professionals that have to leave for better paying jobs abroad. Not to talk about the roads and power problems that still need to be tackled.
UPDATE (12/9/08): The World Bank has 'pledged' to support the NHIS program.