Do you have a health insurance policy? If your answer is a no, then you are not alone. More than 90% of Nigerians do not have.

Nigeria has so many poor people that health insurance is not a priority for most households.

The federal government launched the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS in 1999, but the programme only kicked off in earnest in May 2005 and still has not substantially increased the number of Nigerians with medical insurance.

As of December 2016, only 4% of the population had subscribed to the NHIS, mostly federal government workers.

Perhaps because NHIS participation is not mandatory, many state and local governments have refused to adopt the initiative.

As a result, the penetration of private health insurance remains very low, and 95% of spending comes from out-of-pocket contributions, noted a report by professional services firm, Ernst & Young, EY.

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“However, slower growth, rising unemployment and a sharp increase in inflation have weighed on household disposable incomes, making affordability a key impediment to expansion of the health insurance market,” said the report.

Moreover, many Nigerians live too far away from hospitals to consider insurance.

Nevertheless, Oxford Economics projects that spending on private health insurance will grow to $530 million, about 191 billion naira in 2021, from $400 million, about 144 billion naira in 2016.

It is because of this that the Group Managing Director of Afrinvest West Africa Plc, Ike Chioke has called for more investment in the health sector while advocating a compulsory medical insurance cover for all Nigerians, just as the country has for auto insurance.

Chioke told a news conference last week that “lack of medical insurance means that if anything happens to a breadwinner of a family for instance, the family could go from a well-to-do family to penury”.

He stated: “We must do something about our health expenditure. We must focus on bringing many people into the health insurance system. There has been a lot of effort in that space, but a lot more needs to be done.

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“It is shocking that you can buy a motorcycle in Nigeria, but you can’t drive it without having it insured, but the human beings that are driving it, don’t have medical insurance.”

How Health Insurance Works

Explaining how medical insurance works, Chioke said if everyone were to subscribe to a health insurance plan, statistically no more than 5 or 10% of those insured will be sick, but because everybody is paying, anytime those 5 or 10% go to the hospital, they get free treatment.

“With the money coming into a large pull by people paying medical insurance, it allows investors to go and build specialist hospitals knowing that there is money to pay for the services,” he argued.

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