Ghana's Health Insurance on the brink; over ¢1.2 billion in debts

Ghana's Health Insurance on the brink; over ¢1.2 billion in debts
Source: Ghana||Nathan Gadugah
Date: 13-04-2017 Time: 07:04:19:pm

Ghana's biggest social intervention programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is on the brink of collapse.

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

The scheme which has over 11 million subscribers risk grinding to a halt if alternative funding arrangement is not provided.

Under the Scheme, patients with NHIS cards, receive health services for a period having paid some premiums to the National Health Insurance Authority.

But these 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 Executive Director of the Christian Health Association of Ghana Peter Yeboah paints a grim picture of the situation at hand.

He told Joy News Editor Dzifa Bampoh the scale and scope of debt owed his Association is "frightening" and will no doubt affect the 24-hour service delivery of his outfit.

According to him, the 200million cedis debt owed his outfit for a period of 12 months by the NHIA has left the Christian health Association virtually on its knees.

"There is an acute shortage of medicine and consumables.. We are unable to pay for our utilities and no longer credit worthy," to purchase drugs from Pharmaceutical companies, Peter Yeboah indicated.

He described the situation as "grim," with dire implications for women, children and vulnerable groups especially in the rural areas.

Mr Yeboah said despite interactions with officials of the NHIA there have not been any firm assurances when the 12-month-old debt will be paid.

Asked if his outfit was considering a return to the cash and carry policy, the Executive Director was quick to retort.

He said the Christian Health Association is a law abiding institution which has signed a contract with the NHIA to provide health services to patients and will see out the contract.

He, however, called on officials of the NHIA and government, to as a matter of urgency engage with all stakeholders to find an amicable solution to the problem.

"Withdrawing services will not be the solution now, it will aggravate the problem," he suggested.

But the Ghana Chamber of Pharmacy has already served notice to undertake cash and carry until the money owed them is paid.

The chief executive officer of the chamber, Anthony Ameka said the "situation is now worse off. The last payment made by NHIA to service providers was in April last year."

His association supplies medicine to other service providers but has yet to be paid for the services they have rendered so far.

He said some of his members have been blacklisted by the institutions from whom they purchase these drugs.

He said the only option left for them is to revert to cash and carry.

The new head of the NHIA Dr. Samuel Annor is not available for comment.

However, the deputy ranking member on the health committee Dr. Robert Kuganab-Lem is calling for an alternative approach to funding the NHIS programme.

Over 96% of people used NHIS. The sheer numbers make it unsustainable the way we are running it," he said.

He said government must realize how critical the situation is and must inject some funds to make the scheme survive.

"We were told the Scheme was in a coma. Now it must be revitalised," he said and called for a decoupling of the health sector financing from politics.

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