Vanguard (Lagos)

28 January 2013

Nigeria: In Search of Affordable Health Insurance Plans

Health insurance is news every day because people are denied more coverage than they obtain and must struggle to pay medical expenses on their own.

At least four out of five people who go bankrupt these days in the developing world are pushed over the edge by mounting medical bills.

Recent findings show that most Nigerians do not currently have any form of health insurance.

Over the past years, the number of persons without health insurance has steadily increased with the middle and low-income people accounting for a sizeable proportion of the increase.

Poverty and lack of insurance are linked. Poorer people are less likely to have coverage even though most Nigerians have limited access to needed clinical care, including prevention services.

Yet missing or delaying health care can lead to poorer health and potentially to greater long-term medical expenditures.

Not having insurance has a greater impact among adults who need health care the most. Delays in receiving health care can lead to poorer health and higher medical costs over time, especially for those individuals who already have health issues.

Prevention is really important and being insured improves access to clinical preventive services. For example, increasing the number of persons who receive high-value prevention services could save thousands if not millions of lives each year.

By expanding insurance coverage and eliminating cost-sharing for these and other recommended prevention services, more persons will be eligible to receive this care.

Ensuring that people follow their prescribed care regimens and promoting healthy behaviours in workplaces, in communities, and in doctor's offices can also help improve health, reduce long-term health care costs, and prevent premature death.

Health insurance titbits

Insurers are providing 47 million women in America eight free services. They are well-woman visits, gestational diabetes screening, human papillomavirus testing (HPV) and sexually transmitted disease counseling. Others are HIV screening and counseling, birth control and other contraceptives, breastfeeding support and supplies and domestic violence counseling.

With these new requirements, insurers are undergoing a paradigm shift from a healthcare system built on diagnostic treatment of disease toward a foundation of disease prevention and wellness promotion.

Studies show that 80 percent of citizens in the UK and USA receive health insurance benefits via group health insurance coverage through their employer or their spouse's employer.

Group health insurance is mandatory for all companies or groups having employees more than a specified number, under which, it will provide basic health coverage benefits to its employees free of cost. Comparatively, less than 2 percent of persons in Nigeria receive benefits through any form of group health insurance coverage.

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