Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Ghanaians will from next year enjoy free primary health care.
The free medical health care would be provided in all health facilities across the country and these formed part of recommendations by the committee tasked to review the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The committee chaired by Dr. Chris Atim, recommended to the government to ensure the provision of guaranteed maternal and child health care at all levels.
According to the committee, although Ghana had made strides in improving maternal and child healthcare since the introduction of the free maternal healthcare under the NHIS, the there was the need for it to reduce the number of deaths recorded in health facilities.
The committee also recommended dedication of resources towards the provision of primary healthcare to all Ghanaians to ensure that members used health facilities in their communities as their first point of call.
At a two-day stakeholders consultative forum on the technical review of the NHIS in Accra yesterday, Dr. Atim said the recommendation, if implemented would enable members of the scheme to access healthcare at primary health facilities in the country such as clinics, Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) without the use of NHIS cards.
The justification for the recommendation on accessing health without NHIS card, according to Dr. Atim, was based on the premise that the 2.5 Value Added Tax, an important source of financing for the NHIS, is collected from all Ghanaians, and “should be used to fund services that benefit the whole population and not a minority as at present”.
“The committee’s recommendation of a universally guaranteed health care package of services, if accepted means that possession of the NHIS card will no longer be necessary to access this primary healthcare package, though identification will be required; membership of the NHIS will only be required if the service sought by a person is outside the primary healthcare basket,” he said.
The chairman of the committee said members were only required to show a recognised national identification card wherever they sought health service, to help track utilisation and data.
To achieve the objective of providing primary healthcare for all, Dr. Atim, urged the government to channel resources to ongoing expansion of CHPS compounds.
He said the NHIS should consider upgrading of its capacity focusing on health and intermediate outcomes of services rendered to its members as a parameter of success and not increased utilisation on claims records.
Among other recommendations made by Dr. Atim were innovative means of communicating to the public using improved mobile technology to provide members a breakdown of how much a particular visit or hospital admission to the health facility cost the scheme, establishment of patient protection council to ensure members were treated with dignity wherever they access healthcare and intensification of education particularly to pregnant women to reduce maternal mortality.
The Minister of Health, Mr. Alex Segbefia, who chaired the forum, said the work of the committee covered all spectrums, adding the suggestions, views and recommendations reflected the inputs of all political parties and civil society organisations.
He assured the participants of government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations.
The technical review committee was inaugurated by President John Mahama in September 2015 to redesign and strengthen the NHIS.
The seven-member committee, chaired by Dr. Chris Atim, after its inauguration came up with a sub-committee, which toured the various districts where NHIS services were provided to solicit inputs, suggestions and ideas.
The committee worked for nine months and ended its stakeholder and public engagement yesterday with a number of recommendations as to how to model the scheme as the most sustainable and accountable.
By Malik Sullemana