The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) in line with the priority it gives to collaboration and cooperation with all key stakeholders, has held a maiden briefing and interaction session with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in a spirit of renewed partnership and cooperation.
The interaction took place during the General Council Meeting of the TUC which brought together representatives of 18 affiliate unions of the TUC from all the 10 regions of Ghana at the Health Services Workers Union Centre at Tema in the Greater Accra Region last week.
Addressing the delegates, the Chief Executive of the NHIA, Mr Sylvester Mensah reiterated the importance of sharing objectives, experiences and challenges with stakeholders such as the TUC in order to move the NHIS forward.
“The NHIA and the TUC share a common agenda of addressing the plight of ordinary people… the common purpose of the two organizations makes cooperation and collaboration a useful proposition”, he observed.
He acknowledged the TUC’s role in the establishment of the scheme and thanked them for their magnanimity in agreeing to assign two-and-half percentage points of SSNIT contributions to the National Health Insurance Fund.
The objective of the meeting, according to him, was to have a constructive engagement, keep the TUC abreast with the operations of the NHIS, share some of the successes and challenges of the scheme, and obtain regular feedback and feed forward to advance the course of financial risk protection for accessing healthcare in the country.
Mr. Mensah stated that globally the NHIS, in spite of its challenges, is considered a leading model of healthcare financing arising largely from its legal framework, strategy, structure, and systems.
He maintained that developing countries within and outside Africa are being encouraged by major international organizations to adopt Ghana’s model.
One of the challenges he identified is abuse and fraud, which he described as a global phenomenon afflicting all health insurance systems worldwide for which the NHIA has introduced innovative measures to address.
Another challenge is the high and continual increases in utilization of healthcare and claims costs, he pointed out.
As a result, the scheme’s expenditure exceeds its income. The Ministry of Finance, he explained, is absorbing the difference.
“As a country it is difficult to keep up with the demand for resources because of economic constraints” he noted, adding that in 2012 government directed the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) to absorb all funding gaps arising from increasing public confidence and utilization in the NHIS.
In view of the increasing demand for resources, there is the need for additional funding and realignment of resources, he indicated.
The NHIA on its part has been implementing a raft of cost-containment measures including the introduction of Clinical Audit; Capitation; Claims Processing Centres (zonally located across the country); Consolidated Premium Account; E-Claims; Instant ID card issuances based on biometric data; a new Prescription form regime, among others. These measures, according to him, are making a difference and injecting efficiency into the NHIS.
Mr Mensah noted that possible sources of additional income identified include an increase in the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), a review of the VAT exemptions policy to exclude the NHIL, 5% of the Road Fund, Levy on tobacco and alcoholic beverages, 20% Communications Services Tax.
Mr. Mensah put forward for consideration at a later date the possibility of reviewing the exemption of SSNIT contributors from the payment of premium in the light of emerging financial reality and growing premium in accessing health through the NHIA.
In a questions and answers session, the TUC delegates raised a number of issues to which the NHIA boss and the Deputy Chief Executive/Operations of the NHIA, Sylvester Mensah and Nathaniel Otoo respectively provided illuminating clarifications and explanations.
The General Secretary of the TUC Mr Kofi Asamoah, in his closing remarks observed that the engagement with the NHIA had been fruitful.
He called for more of such engagements and deeper interactions, and suggested that such engagements needed to be extended to the TUC’s District and Regional Councils.
Also present were the Chairman of the TUC, Mr. Stephen Nyame Yeboah and the Deputy Secretary General of the TUC, Dr Yaw Baah as well as some Directors of the NHIA.