The Chairman Senate committee on Health Sen. Lanre Tejuoso says the Senate is reviewing the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Act to make healthcare delivery affordable in the country.
Tejuoso made this known at the opening of a two-day Summit on “the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage” on Monday in Abuja.
He said the move was part of efforts by the legislature both at the national and state levels to ensure Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
According to him, lawmakers across the world play important statutory functions with huge implications for the design, implementation, financing as well as raising accountability bar for social policy thrusts.
“The legislature’s statutory functions of appropriation, accountability, oversight and representation are needed to create necessary legal frameworks, mobilise additional public fund and hold the system accountable to ensure high quality design and effective implementation of UHC mechanisms.
“While there are ongoing pockets of health related efforts by national and state lawmakers, the Senate Committee on Health in collaboration with development partners have resolved to institute a legislative network on UHC.
“This is to harness and align the roles of lawmakers towards advancing UHC course and serve as a veritable tool for coordination and learning among federal and state lawmakers.
“The objectives of setting up the network, among other things, include improved appropriation to health sector by deepening the knowledge of law makers on economic, social, health and political benefit of improved health funding towards UHC.
“Also, it is to ensure prompt and adequate release of allocated funds by working with the lawmakers to make relevant central budget agencies accountable for fund release,” he said.
Tejuoso further noted that the network was aimed at timely passage of relevant high quality health laws especially the legal framework for NHIS and state supported health insurance schemes.
Declaring the Summit open, the President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki said that the summit was a platform which sought to strengthen institutional cooperation to advance legislative activities on health matters.
“The importance of this framework cannot be overstated, as our major role as legislators is to promote the welfare of our citizens to ensure that effective healthcare systems are available to all Nigerians.
“This informed the desire to draw in the cooperative efforts of both the National and State Assemblies targeted at developing health strategies that will work effectively for all.
“This for me is another rare opportunity for us to ensure that the legislative effort in both the National and State Assemblies are moving towards the same direction,” Saraki said.
He said that the health of Nigerians must remain paramount in their efforts to revive the wealth of the nation.
“We must therefore, strive to situate our health resources to optimally serve our population,” Saraki said.
Saraki said that as a nation, the leaders had opted to adopt the Universal Health Coverage which sought to ensure that all people obtained the health services they needed without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.
The president of the senate further said that poor access to good healthcare in the country, especially in the rural areas, was a challenge that must be tackled through innovative thinking and dedication.
“Going by a World Bank report, the state of the Nigerian health system is dysfunctional and grossly under-funded with a per capital expenditure of 9.5 dollars.
“Therefore, addressing the issues in financing healthcare in a sustainable manner to reach all Nigerians calls for the harmonization of legislative actions at both the National and States levels,” Saraki added.
He said that it was his hope that the framework would bring about the effective healthcare systems envisioned for Nigeria.
In an address, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said that the development of the healthcare system was the collective responsibility of every Nigerian.
“We are changing the narrative that health is not an item of expenditure. It is a critical factor for socio-economic development.
“When we invest one dollar in infrastructure the return on investment is three dollars. When we invest one dollar in immunisation, the return on investment is 16 dollars,” he said.
He explained that there was more to gain in investing in health that in investing in any other sector.
Adewole further said that without a healthy workforce Nigeria could not develop its infrastructure.
He said that Nigeria with a population of 180 million people there was need for strategic investment to ensure that the population was managed properly.
The minister also decried the level of maternal mortality which is 576 women in every one thousand which is one of the worst in the world.
“We need to improve on our infant mortality. We need to also make our health facilities attractive and develop confidence in our people,” Adewole said.
In his goodwill message Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislators of Nigeria, Hon. Ismaila Kamba said the greatness and development of a country largely depended on the cause-effectiveness of its healthcare and the ease with which citizens assess it.
Represented by the Speaker Kwara State House of Assembly Mr Ali Ahmad, the chairman said that every government should make healthcare delivery its priority.