Sunday, 28 November 2010
By Halifax Ansah-Addo
The Health Minister, Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor, has made known his lack of faith in the ability of the Mills-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government to run a one-time premium payment for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The disclosure comes at a time Sylvester Mensah, Chief Executive of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), has confirmed reports that the NHIS stands the danger of folding up as there would be no more funds to run the scheme by the year 2013 if government does not find ways of generating more revenue for it.
Dr. Kumbuor, speaking during his Ministry’s turn at the ‘Meet the Press’ series, said he was compelled to say that the one-time premium was workable because it was a government policy and since he was a part of government, he had to support the issue.
Dr. Kumbuor noted, “It would work…I have raised both hands and legs to show you that it would work and I am saying this because they are playing a drum and I am only dancing to it; when they stop playing the drum and I am still dancing, someone should tap me and say they have stopped playing the drum.”
The Health Minister then explained that despite his original position, government had explained that the amount of money currently being collected as premium constituted a paltry three and a half percent of the NHIS budget, thus its contribution was insignificant.
But DAILY GUIDE can confirm that the health scheme is crumbling and the NHIA, its administrator, has tried in vain to get government to accept the true state of affairs and do something about it.
Sources at the Seat of Government told DAILY GUIDE that on Monday, November 14, the Vice President chaired a Cabinet meeting at the Castle and one of the issues that came up was how to generate additional revenue to sustain the NHIA but the Health Minister appeared rather unconcerned about the subject.
“There were a couple of suggestions on board and what the NHIA suggested was that we raised the NHIS levy from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent but the sector Minister was not ready to push that proposal so it was not included in the budget and this raised a lot of tempers but every Minister has his Ministry and no one could speak for NHIA when the Health Minister was not the least concerned,” the Castle source noted.
As the situation stands now, the one-time premium payment as promised by the Evans Atta Mills government would remain a mirage as the NHIS itself would have no choice but to fold up by 2013 due to lack of funds.
Before the budget was read, confidential documents sighted by DAILY GUIDE revealed that the NHIA Board of Directors had met over dangers being faced by the scheme, and forwarded to Cabinet a couple of recommendations on how to sustain the facility, with the most plausible suggestion being to increase the 2.5 percent NHIS levies to 3.5 percent from January 2011.
The said Board Member explained further, “As you can see, year by year our expenditure keeps escalating, given that more people subscribe to the scheme and the cost of medication has gone up, but our revenue is not expanding and we cannot sustain the trend…in 2004 we had just about 1.3 million subscribers but currently we are a little over 17 million and we may have to fold up by 2013 unless something is done about the situation.
“We need to take a tough decision to sustain the scheme and as we continue to block leaks in the system and let the law deal with those found to have involved in financial misconduct and our clinical audits have been able to recoup something close to GH¢15 billion that would have gone waste.”
It is not certain whether government deliberately wants to collapse the scheme and blame it on the past administration, or whether the NDC’s own internal wrangling is having an adverse toll on the future of the NHIS.
What is certain is that the 17 million plus Ghanaians registered with the NHIS would have to return to the ‘cash and carry’ era by the year 2013 because the NDC government would have no funds to run the scheme.