Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo on Saturday announced N250 million as the start-up capital for health insurance scheme in the state.
He described health insurance scheme as a necessity for quality life and should be embraced by individuals, governments, and corporate organisations.
Okorocha made the announcement at the official flag-off ceremony of Imo State Health Insurance Scheme (IMSHIS) held at the Trade and Investment Centre, Owerri.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the flag-off was at the instance of the Imo State Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The governor said the health insurance scheme would enable one to access health care services at all times as somebody somewhere had already paid for the services and urged all to embrace it.
He described the health sector as one of the key social infrastructures which provided the pivot on which life of the people and their environment revolved.
“Health and education are interwoven. Health is key to the existence of human beings, yet people pay very little attention to this aspect of life.
“One of the health challenges in the state is health education. If you eat right, live in a clean environment, do a little bit of exercise with enough rest, you have a good health, yet the majority of people neglect these areas,” he said.
Okorocha said the programme would be taken to the grassroots as it was needed by the downtrodden.
“There are diseases the people, the family cannot carry, but which could be handled by these schemes.
“Imo government knew the importance of health, hence we built the Imo Foundation, the Ochiedike Diagnostic Centre and the 27 general hospitals in the state for the health benefit of the people,” he said.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, represented by the Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Dr Kinsgley Ashiegbu, described the take-off of the scheme as an epoch-making event which would redefine health care in Imo.
He said the programme would impact on the human development indices of the state, create employment and wealth.
The minister promised to give it all the necessary support for it to succeed.
The WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, also commended the state government for the launch of the scheme.
He said it would help protect the population of the country and ensure that the best primary health care was provided with subsidy for the poor who would not be able to pay.
Dr Angela Uwakwen, the state Commissioner for Health, expressed appreciation to the state government and WHO for making the programme launch a reality.
She said that with the flag-off of the scheme, qualitative and affordable health care for Imo citizens were set for full realisation and enjoined the people to key into it as some hospitals would be accredited for the purpose.
Mr John Onyeokoro, the Executive Secretary, Imo State Health Insurance Agency (IMSHIA), said that increased investment in health and human capital development were drivers of economic development.
He said described Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a well thought out strategy by the Federal Government to achieve improvement in the health of the greater number of Nigerians as well as citizens of other nations.
He said the Presidential Summit on UHC, held in March 2014 in Abuja, laid the foundation for the ongoing focused actions directed towards empowering states to develop social health insurance.
Onyeokoro said the state governor had signed the Imo State Health Insurance Law in April 2018 which provided for a mandatory health insurance scheme for every person resident in the state.
“Health insurance is the best way to keep ordinary Nigerians out of poverty through the guarantee of basic quality healthcare services for a minimum fee.
“The World Health Organisation is currently supporting the state to develop a system of State Health Accounts to empirically guide us in the development of appropriate technical tools needful for the smooth implementation of the scheme,” he said.
Onyeokoro said the agency would soon intensify a statewide stakeholders sensitization and public awareness to enlighten the general populace on the importance of the scheme.
Mrs Chinasa Agwunobi, the South East Zonal Coordinator of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), commended the Imo government for keying into the programme, which she said, would ensure that the state benefited from the N5 billion mapped out for the scheme.
She urged all concerned to give attention to the scheme for its survival, adding that “health insurance is the way to go as the government alone cannot carry the burden of quality health for the people.”