The United States Agency for International Development – Health Finance Governance project (USAID-HFG) on Wednesday urged the Lagos State Government to fast track the flag-off of the state Health Insurance Scheme for improved universal health service delivery.
Dr Gafar Alawode, Chief of Party – USAID-HFG in Nigeria, made the call during an advocacy visit to the Office of the Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule at Alausa, Ikeja.
Alawode noted that the health insurance scheme was one of the necessary mechanisms for fostering the sustainability of health programmes and prevention of gaps in health services.
“The goal of the Health Insurance Scheme is to provide quality, accessible and affordable healthcare to the people of the state at a low annual premium.
“ We are specifically appealing that you speed-up the flag off of the state health insurance scheme so that residents can have access to quality healthcare, without facing financial hardship.
“We want the scheme to be flagged-off as soon as possible so that people will begin to benefit from it.
“It is not only about healthcare, it can also transform the economy of the state.
“Also, there is a provision in the scheme where funds will be provided for the vulnerable people in the society.
“We are happy that the Equity Fund is contained in the state`s 2018 budget.
“So, we are appealing that this fund be released so that the pregnant women and indigent people who are not able to access healthcare can begin to access it,’’ he said.
Alawode said that the USAID-HFG had provided technical support in terms of capacity building, diagnostics and policy documents for the take-off of the scheme and the operations of the Health Management Agency.
“Lagos State has shown the way in terms of saying that states can also establish the scheme. If it is possible in Lagos state, it is possible elsewhere. Lagos state is a good example of how things can work,’’ he said.
Alawode also commended the state government for the giant strides it had made in the area of health reforms.
“We are here to identify with the leadership role the state government is playing in the area of health reform in the country.
“Many states in Nigeria look up to Lagos state for direction so they would learn best practices.
“We are very happy with the state government as it has been taking the lead in infrastructural upgrade of health facilities in both its primary and secondary healthcare centres.
“The state has put in place a policy to ensure that residents have access to emergency healthcare, especially in the first 24 hours.
“The state has been taking the lead in terms of increasing financing for health.
“We have seen the statistics where the financing has grown from 6 to 10 per cent of the state’s total expenditure and Lagos has surprised the world by increasing financing for HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis response.
“We are very impressed and we want to contribute to this progress,’’ Alawode said.
Responding, the Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, who received the USAID-HFG team on behalf of Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode, said that the scheme would soon be inaugurated as government was firming up arrangements to ensure the success of the scheme in the state.
Adebule said that the scheme was a reflection of the present administration’s commitment to the health and well-being of the people of the state.
“The Gov. Ambode led-administration recognises that the scheme takes us closer to our dream of universal healthcare for our people.
“ The delay in flagging off the scheme is not deliberate but because we want to do it well and ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
“We are putting finishing touches to basic amenities such as ICT, infrastructure upgrade of primary and secondary health facilities and equipping these faculties so that residents can access affordable and quality healthcare.
“All these arrangements are to make residents get value for their money. We promise not to fall short of the expected standard in this regard,’’ she said.
Adebule appreciated the USAID-HFG project for their support and contributions towards the state government`s health programmes over the years. (NAN)