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19.08.2003 General News

Parliament adopts report on NHIS

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Accra, Aug. 19, GNA - The Joint Committee on Health and Finance of Parliament on Tuesday said the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Bill when passed into law would provide an effective and efficient health care delivery for the people of the country.

Presenting the report on the Bill, the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Akomea Kyeremanteng said it would put in place a mechanism that would ensure equitable access to an acceptable package of essential health services, "without out-of-pocket payment at the point of service for all Ghanaians".

It would also provide the regulatory framework for health insurance, establishment of district mutual health insurance scheme in every geographical area of a district or contiguous districts. Mr Kyeremanteng said the committee lauded the NHIS as a better alternative to the present system of "Cash and Carry" due to its benefit package and humane approach to payment.

He said during interactions with stakeholders and organised groups; workers in the formal sector raised much concern about the deduction of two-and-a-half per cent of their SSNIT contribution to support the National Health Insurance Fund.

"However, the Ministry of Finance has indicated that with prudent investment by SSNIT, which this government is trying to ensure, the SSNIT scheme would not be in danger as anticipated."

Mr Kyeremanteng said one of the prime concerns of successive governments in the history of the country has been the attainment of an appreciable level of accessibility, affordability and efficiency in the health delivery system for the citizenry.

He said the current system of "Cash and Carry" being the direct out-of-pocket payment for health care at the point of service, served as a barrier to accessing health care, especially by the poor.

"In view of the problems associated with the "Cash and Carry" system, an alternative system of health care financing, that is the NHIS is being proposed."

Contributing to the report, Mr Kwaku Balado Manu, Ahafo Ano-South, said the NHIS is an issue thatch has no boundaries irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation and that it has come at an opportune time.

He said the scheme which, "would replace the obnoxious Cash and Carry system and that NHIS would cater for the rich, poor and under-privileged".

Mr Moses Dani Baah, Deputy Minister of Health said the Cash and Carry has caused difficulties to a lot of people, especially the poor, and that the NHIS would enable Ghanaians to make contributions towards their health needs.

"It is a well thought-of issue and almost everywhere you go ordinary Ghanaians see it as a scheme that holds a lot of prospect for them."

He said the scheme would also provide other types of insurance such as the private, commercial and community insurance schemes that would ensure adequate health and quality health care services.

Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, suggested the channelling of resources through the District Assemblies to train medical officers so as to ensure that whoever enjoyed those benefits would be asked to stay on and help the district. Mrs Anna Nyamekye, Deputy Minister of Environment, wondered why workers were complaining about the two-and-a-half per cent deductions from their contributions to SSNIT towards the scheme.

She said for the first time workers are being helped to benefit from their contributions whilst still working and asked: "How many workers have so far benefited from the SSNIT housing scheme?"

Mrs Nyamekye said workers should rather applaud government for coming out with the scheme that would take care of them while alive instead of being paid their benefits after death.

Mr Malik Al-Hassan Yakubu, MP for Yendi, said financing of health has been a great worry to Ghanaians and had denied them the right to better health care.

He said there is no viable alternative to the NHIS that would enable everybody to have access to satisfactory health delivery and there was no need to delay it.

Dr Richard Anane, Minister of Roads and Transport, said the health insurance scheme was long overdue and that in 1970 the then Busia Government attempted to implement such a scheme.

He said 30 years on "we are still debating and putting the health situation of Ghanaians in danger which is not acceptable" and called for the adoption of the report.

Meanwhile, the National Democratic Congress Minority in Parliament has boycotted the debate on the NHIS, saying it did not see anything urgent about it to be dealt with during a special parliamentary session.

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