Last Thursday evening, some great news was delivered to health advocates and Nigerians at large. The President had just signed to law an Act to repeal the National Health Insurance Scheme Act of 1999 and establish the
For many who are keen followers of
As a quick digest, here are five things you need to know about the new National Health Insurance Authority Act of 2022;
HEALTH INSURANCE IS NOW MANDATORY
Yes, every Nigerian is now mandated by law to get health insurance! Specifically, the Act requires the following to get health insurance:
All employers and employees in the public and private sectors with five staff and above
Informal sector employees, and
All other residents in
This is an improvement from the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, 2004, 1999 whose purpose was “providing health insurance which shall entitle insured persons and their dependents the benefit of prescribed good quality and cost-effective health services”, and a major step towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
FROM A SCHEME TO AN AUTHORITY – IMPLICATIONS
The National Health Insurance Scheme Act, 2004 established a scheme whose purpose was to provide health insurance to entitled insured persons and dependents.
The National Health Insurance Authority Act, 2022 however created an oversight and regulatory body for Health Insurance Schemes and more clearly defined the roles of this authority to:
(a) Promote, regulate and integrate health insurance schemes;
(b) Improve and harness private sector participation in the provision of health care services; spirit
© Do such other things that will assist the authority in achieving Universal Health Coverage to all Nigerians.
One way the NHIA will likely integrate health insurance schemes into
THIRD PARTY ADMINISTRATORS
Two components of the NHIA Act of 2022 speak to Third Party Administrators. The first expands the role of Third-Party Administrators and the second restricts the actions of
Expanded definition of Third-Party Administrators: First, Third Party Administrators (TPAs) are intermediaries to facilitate claims between the insurer and the insured.
TPAs were not defined or referred to in the NHIS Act, 1999. This gap meant that HMOs were the only acknowledged administrators of health insurance outside the National Scheme, limiting the efficiency of health service delivery. In the newly signed act, TPAs have been expanded to include: HMOs, Mutual Health Associations and other TPAs of health insurance.
TPAs are defined by the NHIA act of 2022 “any organization with expertise and capability to administer all or a portion of the insurance claims process, including administration of claims, collection of premiums, enrollment and other administrative activities, which is registered by the Authority. “
Restricted scope of HMO services: An important aspect of the new law is how it limits the scope of HMOs in comparison with the NHIS Act of 1999. The previous NHIS Act had HMOs empowered to collect and implement contributions for premiums, including payment for services to healthcare providers, investment of pooled funds not in use etc. The Act establishing the NHIA however removes fund management completely from HMOs and places it with State Health Insurance Schemes (SHIS). Essentially, HMOs may collect contributions for premiums on behalf of SHIS where they are employed to do so but must remit these pooled funds to the SHIS who will then manage, and or invest the funds through the NHIA.
The new NHIA Act addressed a conflict of interest that existed in the NHIS Act, where the NHIS council included a
The question to be asked is, are TPAs able to make healthcare more available, accessible and affordable to the population at large? This should be the underlying reason for being of all of the new agency’s engagement with TPAs. Where wings are clipped or wings extended, NHIA’s mandate to provide mandatory quality services for all Nigerians without financial harm must remain paramount.
NHIA AS A REGULATOR, IMPLEMENTER, INVESTOR, AND INSURER
A summary of the new Act shows that the NHIA has been outfitted with a wide range of expanded functions that empower the Authority to serve as regulator, implementer, investor and insurer of health insurance practices and schemes in
NHIA as a Regulator – Given continued advocacy, intense technical and public sessions and debate, the new act clearly states that the NHIA is empowered to serve as regulator of Health Insurance Schemes in the country. As we have written about extensively, many state health insurance schemes have been established to provide services for residents. These needed a governing body that the NHIS was just not empowered by law to provide. Thus, the NHIA will now promote, regulate and integrate all health insurance schemes in
NHIA will also regulate, accredit and register HMOs and other third-party administrators since it has been empowered by this new act as a licensing body to carry out these oversight functions for TPAs.
NHIA as an Insurer – This new Act seeks to make NHIA a wholesome authority which will insure registered private health insurance companies through a security deposit that these HMOs are required to pay before registration. This function ensures that should a health insurance scheme or private health insurance organization run into financial trouble or out of business for any reason, enrolees continue to remain insured and do not suffer financial ruin. Similar to how the
NHIA as an investor – This simply empowers the NHIA to invest funds not in immediate use in approved federal government securities at the discretion of the governing council. Sustainability of funding for health insurance schemes continues to be the goal and it is expected that by investing funds at the NHIA level, schemes will have a support system for funding in emergencies.
NHIA as an Implementer – This is one component of the new act that did not change much from the NHIS Act, 1999 and continues to raise questions among experts. Should a
This question was not answered in the new Act since the provisions state that NHIA will establish and run a scheme that provides health insurance for all employees in
It is understandable however, how a separate scheme for federal employees may be more practicable for ease of premium contributions given the way federal employees’ salaries are structured and paid centrally. It is thus easier to deduct at source. Another option could be to make health insurance deductions for federal employees at source and then remit payments to corresponding State Health Insurance Schemes (same way other employers are required to). This will consolidate the
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT CHANGES
The new NHIA Act stipulates the creation of a new vulnerable group fund and retains the NHIA fund.
The vulnerable group fund will be established to provide for
Subsidy for health insurance coverage for vulnerable persons
Payment of health insurance premiums for indigents
Just as interesting to note are the sources of this fund; the
This fund will be managed by the
One key point to note is the need for specifications on who the vulnerable and indigents that will benefit from this fund are. While the Act says it will be determined by the
The new Act retains the NHIS fund stipulated in the 1999 NHIS Act. All expenditures shall be made from this fund, including staff salaries, allowances and benefits. It shall be funded by Federal Government allocations, donors, charges from private insurance, fees, fines and commissions, gifts and contributions. It can also be invested in securities and deposits, with interests accrued back to the fund. Proper accounts on the management of this fund will be presented to the Minister of Health not more than 6 months after the succeeding year. The NHIA also continues to be exempt from tax.
One other critical component of the Act to note is that NHIA is to undertake on its own or in collaboration with others sustained and continuous public education on health insurance. As we outline in this 2017 article, NHIA already has a ready group of collaborators in Universal Health Coverage advocates who have sustained continuous public education on health insurance across states and communities. One good example is
Ultimately, it is good to see that many of the critical recommendations made regarding the NHIS Act have been addressed in the NHIA Act. We will continue to monitor and support implementation to ensure that we achieve # Health4AllNaija.
What are your thoughts on the new NHIA act? Should NHIA implement a health insurance scheme? What stood out the most for you in the NHIA Act? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Let us know in the comments section below or join the conversation online using # Health4AllNaija.