Ghana has received accolades as an example of global ‘good practice’ and being touted as one of the emerging countries in Africa.
This is because of the country’s active implementation of universal health coverage (UHC) by providing formal support to its vulnerable population through health insurance.
This has culminated in countries in Africa and beyond continuing to throng in to understudy the operations of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for replication.
Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, Minister of Health made these statements on “Ensuring sustainable finance for UHC in Africa in the midst to changing global and local economic factors,” during the just ended WHO-AFRO Regional Committee meeting in Dakar, Senegal.
He said active membership of NHIS has increased to about 11 million people currently from the 1.3 million memberships at inception in 2005, representing 38% of Ghana’s population.
He adds that the NHIS is a financial backbone of the health delivery system, which engages over 4,000 public and private providers and accounts for about 85% of its internally-generated fund.
Despite these progress, the Minister said the scheme is burdened with sustainability challenges, which member states should learn from including high utilisation rates, fraud and abuse of the system by some credentialed services providers resulting in high claims cost, premiums not properly determined, administrative and operational inefficiencies as well as lack of clearly defined benefit packages.
He added the scheme is confronted with funding gaps leading to 5% claims payment running into arrears.
He said measures adopted to leapfrog these challenges include the review of the financing model to secure additional goals, restructuring of the entire NHIS and review of benefit packages, full automation of claims processing, strengthening of quality assurance and internal audit functions in addition to amendment of laws including prosecutorial powers to punish offenders.
Mr Manu said the country has endorsed the framework of action for strengthening health systems for UHC and SDGs in Africa, which encourages innovative means to raise funds.
He disclosed the debate around UHC draws from a World Health Assembly Resolution of 2005, which states “Everyone should be able to have access to health services and not be subjected to financial hardship in doing so.”
He believes any health insurance reform should be accompanied by a comprehensive health systems reform and encouraged the setting up of health technology assessment agencies in member states.
The Minister suggested cost-effective and budget impact analysis be conducted before interventions are accepted in the areas of medical devices, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
“We recognize health financing as the third arm of UHC beyond access and quality of care. Ghana In the past 15 years, made substantial progress towards attaining UHC.”
On the framework for the certification of polio eradication in the Africa region, Mr Manu said Ghana and the entire global community have made tremendous progress towards global polio eradication initiatives with the region not recording any case in the last 24 consecutive months.
He insisted certification of polio be done on WHO regional basis and called for harmonization of mechanisms to support and compliment the Polio End Game.
“We need to work together as a region to address challenges insecurity and inaccessibility that results in pockets of low immunisation coverage and population immunization, reducing support for polio funded activities and persistent surveillance gaps,” saying these are the surest way to achieve the goal of polio free certification by 2019.