NHIS faces over ¢400m funding gap; Minister insists it doesn’t owe.
Although Finance minister insists all arrears owed the NHIS has been paid, it has emerged that there is a ¢400million hole on the books of the Scheme, ensuring that health care woes are not yet over.
Worse, this huge hole could deepen to about ¢817million by 2016 if steps are not taken to close this huge ugly funding gap, a member of the Health committee of parliament Dr. Kwabena Twum Nuamah explained to Joy News.
Ghana’s social safety net, NHIS is facing a crisis with hospitals and health centers crying for the payment of health insurance claims that have been outstanding since July 2014.
There are weekly threats from health service providers who say they will resort to a cash-and-carry system and turn away NHIS card holders.
Acting Medical Superintendent of the Prestea Government Hospital in Western Region, Dr. Lesley Issah Adams Zakaria, for instance warned they will revert to full cash-and-carry by Monday if the Insurance Authority does not pay up its debts.
One of the explanations emanating from the NHIS has been that they are in talks with the Finance Ministry to release funds.
It was therefore shocking to some MPs when the Finance minister Seth Terkper showed up in parliament to declare that “In 2015, payments to the National Health Insurance has been made up to date. This means that the Ministry has fulfilled all its obligations to the National Health Insurance Fund”
He explained that through the 2.5% National Health Insurance Levy raised to pay for health insurance amounted to 828 million in 2013 and 1billion in 2014.
He directed MPs to ask the Ministry of Health why there is a funding gap.
“When it comes to the sustainability of the scheme and other issues related to its efficient operations, the Ministry of Health has the primary responsibility”, he explained to Parliament.
Helping to unravel circumstances surrounding a persisting funding gap, health committee of parliament member, Dr. Kwabena Twum Nuamah confirmed that even if all the monies collected through the NHIL were given to the NHIA, there will still be a funding gap as the case of 2015 has been.
This suggests that the 2.5% levy is no longer enough. The levy, put in place since 2005, has not been reviewed.
The NHIA has also been making this argument and has called for an increase in the levy.
Deputy Director of Corporate Affairs Samuel Buabasah further explained to Joy News that “we owe close to about six months of claims.”
He said the NHIS has the whole of January claims to pay despite the release of funds from the Ministry of Finance.
According to him, only 1.5million subscribers were on the scheme as at 2005. It has shot up to 29 million in 2015.
He dispelled perceptions that monies meant to pay claims are used to build offices. He revealed that 1% of its budget is used to fund infrastructure while about 80% is used to pay claims. The remainder is for administrative expenses.
“How can 1% [spent on infrastructure] be the reason for the problem?” he wondered.
Examining the way forward, Dr. Nuamah called for a “special arrangement to get extra funds.”
But the Health committee member also believes the NHIS has shown signs of indiscipline in its expenditure.
“I get the feeling that the authority is unable to work within what they receive”, he believes.
The Authority and Finance Ministry, he advised, should come together and explore ways to bridge the gap.
While they do so, some sick boarding house students at the Sogakope Senior High School in the Volta region were turned away from the district hospital there because they did not have cash to pay for the treatment.