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Opinion: Stop using National Health Insurance Fund for other government programs

By: Mukaila Adamu

Since the NHIS was established in 2003 to attain universal health coverage, membership has been increasing posthaste. Meanwhile, annual financial resource allocation is not keeping pace.

Due to expansion of coverage, increase in service use and surge in expenditure, the scheme has been running a deficit since 2009. For example, in 2014 there was a funding gap of GHC 299.18 million. This gap was projected to increase to GHC 803 million in 2018.

The funding gap would be even worse if Ghana was spending what the World Health Organization recommends to spend on each client. Currently, Ghana only spends about $30 (about GHC 144) per NHIS client against the WHO’s recommended $86.

Despite all this, government is diverting National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) money away from the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), which pays claims to health facilities on behalf of the NHIS. Instead, government is giving that much needed money to other programs.

In 2018, government was projected to receive a total of GHC 2.2 million from the NHIF. Government allocated only GHC 1.8 million of that to the NHIA, and the remaining GHC 400 million was diverted to finance the purchase of essential drugs and nurse allowances.

If the full amount of 2.2 million had been allocated to the NHIA, the funding gap could have been reduced significantly, resulting in prompt payment of claims and improved availability of medical supplies at health facilities.

However, in 2019 government plans to continue diverting funds away from the NHIA. It is projected to receive GHC 2.4 million from the NHIF and allocated only GHC 1.7 million to the insurance authority. GHC 188 million is again planned to be diverted for the purchase of essential vaccines.

In an interview with Citi News, NHIA CEO Dr. Samuel Annor admitted that the scheme may be dysfunctional come 2019 if nothing is done about it.

For the sake of the universal health coverage of Ghanaians, something must be done: stop using NHIF funds for other programs.

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