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18.08.2005 Health

Hohoe District Health Insurance Scheme Breaks Grounds


A GNA feature by Maxwell Awumah

Hohoe (V/R), Aug.18 GNA - The Hohoe District appears to have surmounted the myriad of negative perceptions about the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and all is now set for the scheme to take off. The information gathered by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in a series of interviews indicated that all was set for the scheme to take off in the district after a coordinated, well programmed and targeted campaign removed every lingering apprehension the people had and increased their confidence in the scheme.

Scheme managers brimming with confidence cited the portrayal by politicians of the NHIS as a tool to overburden the poor during the 2004 electioneering campaigns, as a major setback to getting people on board the scheme.

The managers claimed that that scepticism was disabused in the minds of the people with sound arguments that lay bare the poor service delivery under the cash and carry system, which could only be remedied by some form of collective funding for health in the country.

The GNA gathered that people's mistrust also stems from the fear that the scheme, which is more or less free at the point of service delivery, could not be sustained or might collapse soon after take off. Furthermore, it was largely perceived that in the event of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) losing political power to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the 2004 elections, the policy was likely to be cancelled.

But alas, the reverse was the case as the NPP won that election. The managers told the GNA that they had met these challenges squarely as a result of which people were beginning to shed those fears and instead were embracing the NHIS resulting in 90,000 people in the formal and informal sectors out of the district target of 165,014 being registered towards the commencement of the scheme.

With regard to premium collection and payment, more than 54 million cedis were generated, which represented about 760 fully paid up subscribers and members.

Additionally, over 14,000 snap shots of members had already been taken, with about 90 per cent work completed on the coding and mapping of houses while work on the remaining 10 per cent was progressing. The Scheme has further validated about 99 per cent of all Social Security numbers (Social Security and National Insurance Trust, SSNIT) of around 8,000 employees in the formal sector. Interestingly, all the applicants were in good standing with SSNIT.

In respect of the exempt category, the scheme estimated to register about 800 indigents, 5,000 aged, 60,000 of under 18 years about 1,700 pensioners.

The relative success chalked is a plus for the staff of the scheme, the Hohoe District Assembly and its former Chief Executive, Mr James Dogbe, who put in a lot of effort with meagre resources and rose above themselves "to let things happen".

As Mr John Peter Amewu, the new Chief Executive put it, "a lot of sensitisation work was done, and knowing we were operating in a not too friendly environment we threaded cautiously and persistently to bring all shades of people on board", he stressed.

Mr Amewu said what served as the "pull factor" was the advice to the people that the premium could be paid by instalments.

Mr Lawrence G. Sakada, Scheme Manager, said more than half of the District's target had paid their premiums while efforts were being made to get to people in the hard to reach areas of the District. He said quite a number of people in the informal sector were among those who have paid their premium. The Manager said about 500 people who fell into the indigent category had been registered.

Mr Sakada said a projected 7,000 people in the formal sector were expected to join the scheme.

He said 180 registration and receipt booklets had been procured, 360 premium collectors and registration assistants given orientation and a three-room office accommodation procured for the scheme. Mr Sakada also said two accounts have been opened with the Ghana Commercial Bank while a scheme board had been inaugurated. He said validation of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) numbers of formal sector workers as well as photo taking and computerisation of applications were in progress.

The GNA observed that the scheme in the District was faced with some challenges including the non-availability of logistics especially colour printers and lamination materials for Identity Cards, unreliable flow of funds for the scheme activities and delays in payment of staff allowances.

Mr Sakada, however, gave the assurance that a committee had been constituted to facilitate the implementation process and they would assess and address all those challenges.

He said the committee had been tasked to negotiate with service providers in the District on modalities of service and ways to check fraud.

Hohoe District has 24 health facilities in various locations, a private hospital, a district hospital, a private maternity home, one mission hospital, four recognized pharmacies and 67 chemical shops