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Feature Article of Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Columnist: Prempeh, Mathew

President Must Apologise To Ghanaians

The President Must Apologise To Ghanaians On One-Time Premium Broken Promise

President John Dramani Mahama on Sunday said the New Patriotic Party’s proposal to provide free healthcare to children under 18 years was in contrast to the National Health Insurance Authority law, according to reports.

He said children were already benefitting from the National Health Insurance Scheme from their parents by an administrative directive in 2009, and wondered how the proposal could be useful to them. He went as far as to suggest that Nana Akufo-Addo was wrong to say that the next NPP government will offer free healthcare under the NHIS to all children under age 18 and that the NPP Presidential Candidate must sack his advisors.

First of all, the President must get his facts right and stop embarrassing the presidency with some of his ill-informed statements. There exists no administrative directive issued in 2009 when it already existed from July 2008. The NPP has been very consistent on what we plan to do in order to move Ghana forward. And we have been able to do so because we are committed to what we say we will do.

1. What Nana Akufo-Addo has done is, essentially, to restate two of his key manifesto pledges of 2008 to: offer free secondary education to every child and

2. Free healthcare under the NHIS to every Ghanaian child under the age of 18.

None of the two policies are currently in place so we are not at all sure what the President is talking about.

In his speech at the Sunyani Nurses Training College on 17th October, 2012, Nana Akufo-Addo stated: “On December 7, the nation has a chance to make a decision on two major issues: (1) whether Ghanaians should have universal access to free quality education for every child under the age of 18, and (2) which party can be trusted to deliver access to affordable quality healthcare for every Ghanaian. The NPP believes that free quality education up to secondary level and affordable healthcare are essential for the healthy, educated workforce we need to transform the economy, create wealth and enhance the welfare and wellbeing of every Ghanaian.”

On the NHIS, he went on to give a solemn pledge: “The NPP will go a step further to save our health system and keep our people healthy: we will offer all children free access to the NHIS. This means that parents no longer have to be a subscriber to the NHIS for a child to benefit. Millions more children will be covered by free healthcare.”

Which part of the two clear statements does the President not understand? His misfired criticism only goes to show that in John Dramani Mahama Ghanaians have a president who has really lost touch with the concerns and aspiration of the ordinary people of Ghana. We have a president who does not seem to know what time it is and only prefers to add to the current sufferings of the masses by saying, as he did at his IEA Eveing Encounter, that under this NDC III government Ghanaians have enjoyed an “unprecedented quality of life”.

As Nana Akuffo-Addo stated: “The NHIS shows that the NPP believes in fairness as a principle of social action.

We believe that access to social services should be on the basis of need, and that government has a duty to keep its people healthy. We are proud that we are helping to create a society of fairness and opportunities for everyone, including the most vulnerable.”

Indeed, before the 2008 December election and weeks after the NPP Manifesto pledged to decouple children from accessing the NHIS only through their policy holder parents, President J A Kufuor and his Cabinet gave an administrative directive to extend NHIS services to every Ghanaian child below the age of 18, without discrimination.

But, this important social intervention was completely abandoned by the NDC government after 2009 as they struggled in vain to implement their dead-from-birth one-term insurance premium. They have never funded this laudable Kufuor government policy.

Even though members Parliament have managed successfully to have the new National Health Insurance Authority Bill amended to have the decoupling initiative added before its recent passage, the President is yet to give his assent to the Bill for it to become law, thereby, paving the way for its implementation.

Our advice to President John Dramani Mahama is this: please concentrate on appending your signature to the Bill, failing which Akufo-Addo will do so and make sure that our long-standing pledge to offer free NHIS to every Ghanaian child becomes a reality.

Nana Akufo-Addo has said it over and over again that his ultimate goal is to achieve universal coverage for all Ghanaians under the NHIS under his vision of creating a free and fair society of opportunities for every Ghanaian citizen.

The President could do well to sack those who gave him that poor and expensive advice to send 250 Ghanaian students to Cuba at the kind of cost which, if wisely invested, would have educated nearly a thousand Ghanaian medical students here in Ghana and, in the process, strengthening the capacity of our own medical schools.

The President may do well to sack his advisors who kept telling him that one-time premium was doable. Ghanaians demand an apology from the President for failing in the last four years to implement the flagship manifesto promise of the NDC in 2008, which was to introduce one-time premium for NHIS users.

Better still, the President should sack himself for advising his late predecessor that he could bring Koreans to Ghana to build 200,000 ‘affordable’ homes in 4 years only to end up wasting everybody’s time and the nation’s resources.

We believe that the NHIS is one of the greatest legacies of the NPP and a precious asset for the nation. An Akufo-Addo government will restore public confidence in the NHIS and allow it to focus on what it was set up to do, which is to give the masses of Ghana access to affordable, quality healthcare.

……..Signed…….. Dr Mathew Prempeh, MP

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