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22.06.2005 Health

Health insurance is the only option to quality health care

GNA

Accra, June 22, GNA - The National Health Insurance (NHI) remains the viable option to improving access to quality health to the poor and vulnerable in deprived communities, Dr Sam Akor, Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Council, said on Tuesday.

In a presentation at a three-day conference on improving access to medicines, Dr Akor said the scheme aimed at ensuring equity between the vulnerable and the rich thereby increasing the former's access to affordable health care. He said so far the enabling legislation had been passed and the Councilhad been put in place to ensure a speedy implementation. Strategies for Enhancing Access to Medicine (SEAM) Programme, which targets improving accessto medicines, is organising the conference.

The Management Services for Health (MSH) established SEAM with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve access to essential medicines in developing countries. The five-year programme aims to increase access by improving the systems for drugs supply as well as the quality of the drug products and the pharmaceutical services provided to consumers.

Dr Akor said so far out of 123 insurance schemes envisaged, 32 had got to the management level; 72 were in the process of developing their Identification Tags while 18 were at the stage of collecting levies and contributions. On the structure of the funding, Dr Akor said, adults of 18 years and above in the informal sector would make direct annual contribution of 72,000 cedis.

There would also be an indirect contribution of 2.5 per cent of workers contribution from the Social Security and Insurance Trust and an additional 2.5 per cent National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) being collected by the VAT Service.

Dr Akor said the scheme would cover all common diseases in all the district hospitals in the country. However, he said, apart from emergencies, the scheme would not cover conditions such as heart and brain surgeries, chronic renal failure, provision of antiretroviral drugs and treatment for opportunistic infections. "This exclusion constitutes only five per cent of diseases that would be taken aboard by the scheme."

Dr Akor said while all was ready for the rollout of the scheme, availability of quality service throughout health facilities across the country remained the major challenge because of the continuous brain drain of health professionals. There is also the big challenge of networking all the health providers, who would operate under the scheme, as well as put in place a unique identification that could safeguard fraud.

Dr Irene Adjepong, Greater Accra Regional Director, Ghana Health Service, said to bridge the equity-gap for the poor and vulnerable to access the services, the scheme must have practical designs incorporated in it. She said the main challenge when the scheme became operational would be the heavy stress that it would place on health professionals, who would have to contend with large number of people visiting health facilities. Dr Adjepong suggested the strengthening of the human resource at both the national and local levels to be able to deal effectively with the influx that would result from increasing demand. Ms Helen Dzikunu from Danida called for detailed implementation guidelines to enable development partners to see where they could complement the efforts of Government to ensure the success of the scheme.

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