Health News of Friday, 9 May 2014

Source: GNA

NHIA addresses congestion at registration centres

The National Health Authority (NHIA) has set out mobile teams to provide assistance to district offices where the on-going biometric registration of subscribers of the scheme is currently taking place in Accra.

This is to help ease the congestion that is mounting in various district registration centres.

More equipment have also been supplied to some of the offices where the numbers are high, while staff of the scheme have been charged to work for long hours, and some offices directed to open at weekends to ensure that more clients are served.

Mr. Nathaniel Otoo, Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of Operations, NHIA, announced this at a media briefing in Accra on Thursday.

He explained that the NHIA introduced the new biometric registration for subscribers of the scheme to resolve card management challenges that had bedeviled the scheme over the years.

“The instant biometric membership ID card initiative is expected to lead to improved experience of NHIS members," Mr. Otoo explained.

He said the biometric registration had so far been rolled out in three regions, namely, Greater-Accra, Central and Eastern, under the nation-wide roll-out of the instant issuance of ID card system based on biometric data that started in January this year, adding that Ashanti Region is the next to join the regime.

Mr. Otoo noted that, by the roll-out plan, the whole country would be covered by the close of the year.

He said the introduction of the biometric exercise would also address issues of data integrity, authentication of subscribers by healthcare providers, ID card production delays, difficulties in ID card distribution to subscribers, inability to link subscriber hospital attendance to claims forms, as well as multiple registrations in the membership database.

These would ensure a more efficient service that minimizes the opportunities for abuse and fraud, and promote cost-containment, he said.

He asked subscribers, including legally residents’ foreigners in the country whose cards are near their expiry dates as well as first time subscribers, to visit any of the district offices of NHIS to register.

“There is no need to rush once your card is not near its expiry date. This is to ensure that the centres are not congested, because the old cards are as valid as the new biometric ones."

Mr. Otoo assured the public that healthcare providers and facilities are accepting both the old and new cards until the old ones are gradually phased out of the system. No service provider will turn any NHIS subscriber away on the basis of possessing the old card, he assured.

Mr. Perry Nelson, ICT Specialist, at the NHIA said the NHIS in May 2014, printed 432,791 ID cards under the new biometric registration that cover security personnel, made up of the police and military personnel under the pilot registration done between June and December 2013, and in the on-going exercise in the three regions covered so far.

He said the new biometric card can also capture extra information, like blood grouping and allergies of subscribers to aid healthcare providers in offering better services to clients.

The life span of the new biometric NHIS ID card is five years, but membership is subject to renewal every year.