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17.03.2007 General News

NHIS under fire

By myjoyonline

The Programme Officer of the Community Care Department of the Social Welfare, Mr. Prince Lamptey, says the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is not disability friendly.

Speaking at a seminar on Persons With Disability (PWDs) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), he said the Scheme does not cater for the specialized needs of the disabled.

Mr. Lamptey said the NHIS is perceived from a general perspective instead of selectively addressing the specific needs of PWDs.

"This is because aids for the disabled, including spectacles, clutches, and wheel chairs which were deemed expensive were excluded from the NHIS list. This is not fair because what the Law assumes are the specialized needs of patients are rather the basic needs of PWDs," he said.

The seminar was organized by the Disabled Christian Fellowship International (DCFI) under the theme, "Accessible and Quality Health Care for the Disabled, Challenges of the NHIS"

He said section 31 of part five (5) of the Disability Act stated that the Ministry of Health shall provide free general and specialised medical care as well as rehabilitative and appropriate devices for PWDs, but the NHIS is silent on this provision.

He said there is the need to review the law to enable the PWDs to derive the maximum benefit because as it currently stands, the basic need of the disabled are not provided since they are deemed to be expensive.

Mr. Lamptey said another major problem with the NHIS is the six months period between registration and the issuance of the Identity Card as one could not access medical care even when the need arises.

He said with the review of the law, health providers could exercise some discretion to temporarily take care of PWDs, adding that this would open a window of hope for a majority who are not financially sound.

Mr. Lamptey said apart from the general problems PWDs face, they are also discriminated against at the Health Institutions and called for a periodic workshop for health personnel for the better management of issues concerning the disabled.

He called for the establishment of a Disability Council to serve as a conduit between the government and the PWDs and also ensure that polices were implemented to the advantage of the disabled.

The Operations Officer of the NHIS, Mr. Peter Bediako Puni, said apart from the Private Mutual and Private Commercial Health Insurance Schemes, government is fully supportive of the District Mutual Health Insurance scheme since it caters for all persons, including indigents.

He defined an indigent as a person who has no visible or adequate means of income or nobody to support him or her and that some of the benefits included physiotherapy, OPD Surgical operation and emergencies, cervical cancer, accommodation in a general ward and feeding.

Mr. Puni said the exclusive list had issues like assisted reproduction, HIV/AIDS, cosmetic and aesthetic surgery, heart and brain surgery, cancer treatment apart from breast and cervical cancer and organ transplant among others.

He said the NHIS takes care of about 95 per cent of individual illnesses and though the minimum payment is ¢72,000 and ¢480,000 maximum, one could contribute more if he had the means.

Mr. Francis Adjetey Sowah, Executive Director of the DCFI said PWDs are not well cared for and that they had to pay full registration fees before they could access health care provided by NHIS.

He said the deaf experience communication barriers, as there are no sign language interpreters at the health care centers to cater for their needs promptly adding that disability is everybody's lot anytime because anybody could suffer from it.