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Insuring Nigerian Entertainment

The advantages of health insurance are too numerous for the scheme to be put in jeopardy. It makes basic healthcare accessible and affordable to all Nigerians, irrespective of their socioeconomic status

The Nigerian Entertainment Industry Health Insurance Scheme (NEIHIS) is designed as a customized health insurance structure for practitioners of the entertainment industry. The NEIHIS which is under the direct regulation of the Nigerian Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) can be procured by individuals, corporate groups or nuclear families. NEIHIS also covers all the employees of entertainment and media outfits including band members, set designers, journalists, sound engineers and other auxiliary service providers and affiliates.

The need for a well-structured health management system for the Nigerian entertainment industry is long overdue. With the launch of the NEIHIS, it is hoped that the dark days of public appeal to save lives of ailing entertainers is finally over as the scheme is meant to deliver easy and affordable healthcare to practitioners in the sector across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). While we commend the Nigerian Entertainment Industry Lecture Series (NEILS) and NHIS for putting the new scheme in place, we implore them not to rest on their oars.

They should strive to create continuous awareness and mobilise support for the scheme in order to ensure effective participation. The leadership of the entertainment industry should henceforth make it a duty to encourage practitioners to enrol under this customised scheme for the industry in order to enjoy its immense benefits. We wish to draw the attention of all Nigerians on the need to emulate the entertainment industry operators and embrace the NHIS for effective healthcare as we believe in the saying that health is wealth. The NHIS, established by government in 1999, is aimed at making healthcare easily accessible and affordable.

It encompasses government employees, the organised private sector and the informal sector and also covers children under five, permanently disabled persons and prison inmates. Nigeria introduced the concept of health insurance as a source of significant alternative funding of healthcare. Unfortunately, the NHIS’s growth has been very slow as many Nigerians are yet to sign up with the scheme. Official records indicate that about 5.5 million Nigerians are registered under NHIS out of which 75 per cent are federal government employees who are mandatorily insured.

Therefore, there is need for NHIS to embark on various initiatives and explore areas of cooperation with other sectors, like it has done with the entertainment industry, to enhance the scheme and increase participation in it. There is also need to address the many impediments to the scheme for its goals to be fully achieved. It is sad that many of the healthcare operators find it difficult to meet set standards. There have been allegations of unethical and unwholesome practices levelled against some of (HMO) and the hospitals designated as healthcare providers under the scheme.

There are also frequent cases of strained relationship between the HMOs and the hospitals bordering mostly on inflated billing and extortion by the hospitals and HMOs indebtedness to the hospitals, a situation said to force many of them to render cheap services that may even jeopardise the health of the patients seeking medical care under the scheme. A health insurance survey conducted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) suggests that many enrolees patronise their personal physicians for better treatment rather than the HMO-registered hospitals.

This should not be the case. The regulator of the scheme should therefore rise to the occasion and address all these issues that are capable of negating the gains of the scheme. The NHIS should be committed to curbing abuses in the system and in doing so it must not hesitate to wield the big stick against any stakeholder found wanting. The advantages of health insurance are too numerous for the scheme to be put in jeopardy.

It makes basic healthcare accessible and affordable to all Nigerians, irrespective of their socio-economic status. Therefore it behoves the private sector operators and all state and local governments to recognise health insurance as the most viable option for healthcare financing, having produced enviable outcomes in developed countries.

Political leaders and captains of industry should join hands with the federal government to promote the scheme among the various segments of the society. Modalities should also be put in place to extend health insurance coverage to the vulnerable members of the society who are unable to make contributions to the pool.

There is also need for NHIS to expedite action on the Mobile Health Insurance Programme which it plans to introduce to provide qualitative and affordable healthcare to all Nigerians. The programme for which a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with an indigenous mobile financial services aggregator, Salt & Einstein MTS, would be the first of its kind in the world.

The mobile health insurance programme would enable Nigerians to register for thev arious programmes under NHIS from their mobile phones thus removing both physical and financial barriers to access. This is indeed another trail blazing initiative credited to the Goodluck Jonathan administration aimed at repositioning NHIS to unlock the energy of Nigeria towards the overall socio-economic wellbeing of the nation. We have no doubt that the programme, if well implemented, will make total healthcare accessible and affordable to all Nigerians and not just the entertainment industry players.

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