Health Insurance Fund signs agreement with Kwara State government for state-wide health insurance coverage in Kwara State
The Governor of Kwara State in Nigeria Abdulfatah Ahmed has reinforced the ambition of his administration to realize access to affordable and quality health care for his entire state. The Governor signed an agreement with the Health Insurance Fund and its local partner Hygeia Community Health Care for expansion of the Kwara Health Insurance Program to the whole state in the next five years. The signatories were the Governor of Kwara State, His Excellency Abdulfatah Ahmed, Fola Laoye the Chairman of Hygeia and Kees Storm, the Chairman of the Health Insurance Fund.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed in Abuja aims to enroll 600,000 people in the Community Health Insurance Program across the state by 2018. Currently, nearly 70,000 people in three areas of the state are enrolled. The expansion is a necessary step according to the Governor, who during the press conference after the signing stated that: “Many people, especially at the grassroots, have not been able to afford medical bills in the hospitals and what we are trying to do is to assist not less than 60 per cent of Kwarans in accessing affordable healthcare services.”
Kwara State is a relatively poor, rural province in north western Nigeria. It has approximately 1.5 million inhabitants, mostly small-scale farmers, for whom access to affordable and good quality health care is a struggle. In 2007 PharmAccess, the Health Insurance Fund and the Hygeia Group in co-operation with the Kwara State government launched the Community Health Insurance Program in three areas in Kwara State. The program is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It introduces subsidized health insurance to the farmers and their families, while simultaneously improving the provision of healthcare services in accordance with internationally recognized quality standards. By paying a small amount annually the famers have access to good quality care in facilities nearby. As a result, the participating clinics and hospitals have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patient visits.
An essential aspect of the agreement is the development of a healthcare financing plan by the partners that will ensure the implementation of a financially viable health insurance program in the long term. The partners will jointly strive to mobilize resources both domestically and internationally for this purpose.
The Kwara State Government has already demonstrated the political will to contribute towards the payment of premium subsidies. In 2009, under the former Governor, Dr. Saraki, who was also present at the signing, the State Government committed itself to contributing 2.4 million euro towards the health insurance program for a five year period. Last year, the Kwara State Government passed the Community Health Insurance Bill to work towards rolling out a state-wide program for low-income people in the state. This collaboration is perhaps the first of its kind between an international development organization and an African local government in the area of health insurance.
During a visit to Nigeria in 2011, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about the unique character and importance of the community health insurance scheme of Kwara State. In addition, the UNAIDS has described the Community Health Insurance Program as an example of insurance innovations to achieve sustainability and self-reliance among low-income Africans.