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Opinions of Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Columnist: Akapule, Samuel Adadi

Health NHIS Problem

High poverty rate among communities in Bongo District renders majority of people unable to register with NHIS

By Samuel Adadi Akapule , Bongo (UE)

A reach finding conducted by the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) in some selected communities in the Bongo District of the Upper East Region and the West Mamprusi District in the Northern Region had revealed that high poverty rate in the area accounted for majority people in the areas inability to register and renew with the National Health Insurance Scheme( NHIS).

The research finding which was conducted in the first quarter of 2013 with funding from STAR-Ghana cited the six communities where the research was carried out including the Akunduo, Soe-Kabre and Adaboya in the Bongo District and Gbimsi , Sayoo and Kunkua in the West Mamprusi District..

The Programme Officer of the LRC, Mr Samson Akabawari Akanpigbiam who made the research findings known at stakeholders meeting on “the measures to ensure affordable Premium for Rural and the Informal Sector Population in the Bongo District” also cited that another hindrance that rendered the people unable to register with the scheme was the perception raised by them that the premiums being charged by the NHIS was very as high for them. “It has been noted that one of the critical issues facing the community based NHIS registration and renewal system for rural and informal populations is the high rate of poverty among the community members .Another major finding was that the premium is high for People With Disability (PWDs) and the poor in general .The lack of money to register and renew cards due to poverty was one of the major findings”, it indicated.

The Programme Officer explained that it against this background that the LRC with support from STAR-Ghana is implementing a “Right to Health” project with the objective of increasing the uptake of rural and informal sector populations unto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the six communities in the Bongo and West Mamprusi Districts of the Upper East and Northern Regions He explained further that it was based on the research findings that informed the LRC to hold the stakeholders meeting on how to ensure affordable premium for the selected communities and noted that it would be recalled that this year the World Bank supported some communities in the area to register for the NHIS due the poverty level and indicated that this cannot be sustainable

The research findings of the LRC in the selected communities, he noted , also informed the recommendation of the need for waiver of registration and renewal of premiums for the rural and informal sector population in order to get such populations on to the NHIS. He said under the “Right to Health” project being implemented by the LRC with support from STAR-Ghana a national stakeholders meeting would be organized involving major stakeholders including the Management of the NHIS , the Ghana Health Service, the Ministry of Health , Policy makers among others to chart the way forward to enable those who could not afford to pay for the scheme to do so. The various stakeholders at the forum which included Staff of Bongo NHIS ., Staff of the Bongo District Health Directorate, Bongo Social Welfare Department, Bongo District Coordinating Director, Planning and Budget Officers, Traditional authorities, Assembly persons and Media suggested that Government and other NGOs should construct more irrigation facilities for them to undertake irrigation farming to help them pay for premium of the NHIS .

The stakeholders particularly the traditional rulers also proposed that the premium of the NHIS be reviewed downwards from 8 Ghana cedis to 5 Ghana, adding that apart from the 8 Ghana cedis they pay, they still pay for administrative cost of 4 Ghana cedis making it 12 Ghana cedis.

They also suggested that health fund could be established in the District and said this could be done during festival periods where people are made to contribute to the fund to take care of the most vulnerable. The stakeholders whilst commending the World Bank for paying for some venerable people in the communities appealed to them to continue the supports and also further called upon more NGOs and philanthropists to come to their aid.

They further impressed upon the Members of Parliament in the area to set aside 1 per cent of their Common Fund to cater for the most needy ones to pay for the NHIS premium and in addition proposed that communities contribute yearly in the form of food items and animals so that they could be sold for the proceeds to be used to cater for the needy.

They stressed the need for the District Assembly to help revamp the local industries such as the basket weaving and smock , sheanut processing and among others to help the people improve upon their livelihoods to pay for the premium of the NHIS,