Dr Yaw Baah, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, has advocated the need for the citizenry to pay higher taxes to fund the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to make it more functional.
He recounted his experiences on better healthcare systems in Norway and the United Kingdom saying healthcare systems in those countries functioned effectively because their citizens paid high taxes to ensure their effective running.
Dr Baah was speaking at a regional forum for workers in Tamale on strategies and measures to strengthen the NHIS.
The forum, under the auspices of Organised Labour, in collaboration with the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), is a nationwide programme aimed at soliciting inputs from workers’ unions on how to address the challenges of the NHIS to ensure quality health service delivery.
The NHIS was introduced in 2003 and it is financed by the 2.5 per cent of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and 2.5 per cent of the contributions from the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, which amounts to 30 dollars for each person per year.
However, this financing model is inadequate as membership of the NHIS continues to increase leaving it with virtually no money to promptly pay claims by service providers, a situation which affects effective healthcare delivery in the country.
As at the end of last year, the NHIA paid a little over half of its GHc1.2 billion indebtedness to service providers.
Dr Baah said an effective NHIS was good for all, especially workers, as it guaranteed them better healthcare.
“This is the time to make the NHIS better work for Ghanaians,” he said, asking all to ponder over ways to adequately fund the Scheme to continue to provide better healthcare services to all adding that Cash-and-Carry was not an option.
Dr Samuel Yaw Annor, the Chief Executive Officer of the NHIA, said there was need to increase the Scheme’s current financing model from 30 dollars 86 dollars per person per year to have a basic healthcare system or to 100 dollars per person per year to have a premium healthcare system in Ghana.
He said the NHIA had proposed various financing models to government such as increasing the VAT component to 3.5 per cent, a health tax on cigarette to treat smokers, taxes on alcohol and sugar to cater for sugar diseases amongst others to shore up funds for the Scheme.
Dr Annor said the NHIA was working to eliminate all inefficiencies in the Scheme and that claims processing would soon be done electronically to ensure correct claims and quick payment as against the current manual system of processing them.
He said consultations were also being made to make the NHIA Law more punitive to punish those who abused the system.
Some of the participants agreed for increased funding for the NHIS whiles others suggested need to make it apolitical to ensure effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the NHIA delegation earlier called on the Northern Regional Minister to brief him on its mission in the Region.
It also visited the Tamale Teaching Hospital to hold discussions with the authorities and staff on the NHIS and discuss ways to improve health care delivery.
Kobby Blay is the chief health editor at Ghanahealthnest.com. A professional practicing nurse with specialty in mental health and focus for health communications, public health, medical/documentary photography, ICT and systems perspective for health improvement.