A senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School has urged government to introduce preventive healthcare programmes onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Dr Gordon Abekah–Nkrumah said the aspect of preventive health care being placed on the NHIS would help manage the actual cost of delivering preventive care services which hospitals barely paid attention to.
He explained health facilities that were focused on paying critical attention to patients with primary, secondary and tertiary health challenges, hence paid little attention to regular check-up or screening of members of the public who had no health disorders to detect early symptoms of possible disorders.
“Because the NHIS currently doesn’t pay for preventive care services, hospitals are not interested in screening patients to detect their problems and so the New Patriotic Party-led government must ensure that preventive care becomes part of the NHIS as stated in their manifesto”, he said.
Dr Abekah–Nkrumah made the recommendation at an engagement organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) on post-election dialogue with the media in Accra to assess some challenges in the health system and responsiveness of the NPP manifesto in relation to health sector.
He said the NHIS was designed to pay for curative care, adding that there was the need to align the NHIS package of services to achieve improvements in population health.
Dr Abekah–Nkrumah said it was time to re-design and structure or review aspects of the NHIS system to deal with inefficiencies and improve the health care conditions which included the benefit package, exemption policy and the premium.
He recommended that the pharmaceutical sector should be properly regulated by exploring and tightening the system to ensure that it met the standards to manage and deal with some health issues that were reported at the mainstream hospitals.
“This will give space in our major hospitals for them to attend to major issues rather than having everybody trooping in causing congestion in the public hospitals, so that it will be attract people who are not on the scheme to enroll,” he added.
Dr Abekah–Nkrumah complained about inadequate funding or budget allocated to the health sector and expressly, the NHIS.
He explained that the unsustainability of the NHIS was due to the structural defects in the design such as the over generous benefit package, large exemption group and inadequate funding due to high membership, relatively lower revenue, low premiums, broad benefits package.
He said there was need to have a country level conversation on how to better fund the NHIS, given that it would be the vehicle to drive any reforms needed to synchronize expenditure growth with revenue resources and financing mechanisms.
Extra funding could be sourced from oil revenue, levies on large profitable companies and increase value added tax (VAT) levy on products like alcohol, tobacco, sugar-sweetened beverages which predisposed consumers to health risk, he suggested.
Dr Nkrumah lauded the government for introducing a one per cent increment in the National Health Insurance Levy, however, he suggested that the funds accrued be given to the NHIA to fund the scheme.
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