The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that peace and harmony have returned to the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS.

The Nigerian government wants to start a special health insurance programme for elderly citizens.

Health minister Osagie Ehanire on Monday inaugurated a ministerial committee to work with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in developing the framework for the scheme.

This is coming days after the government launched a health insurance scheme for uninsured Nigerians.

According to the minister, the plan for the elderly “underscores the resolve and commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to promote the wellbeing of aging citizens through the provision of health insurance.

“The president subscribes to the view that elders who have served the country be treated with respect and dignity.

“The president commits to investing in older persons in recognition of the contributions they continue to make to family, communities, and the nation.

“This aligns with global best practices in healthcare for older persons,” he said.

Majory of Nigerians are young people according to official data but the number of elderly people in the country is growing.

The population of Nigerians aged 60 years and above rose from 8.7 million in 2013 to 9.6 million in 2016 and is expected to reach 20 million by 2050, according to the National Population Commission (NPC).

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the vulnerability of the elderly to diseases. About 70 per cent of fatalities from the disease were persons over 60 years, according to data from Nigeria’s infectious disease control outfit, NCDC.

A United Nations report says Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are not prepared for the needs of their elderly populations. According to the report, fewer than one in five seniors receive a pension, and the decrepit healthcare systems are increasingly unable to manage ailments associated with aging, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

The last policy on aging in Nigeria was drafted in 2008 and reviewed 10 years later but experts believe the policy requires a full overhaul.

Earlier this year, the government started making fresh moves to address this challenge. In March, the government extended the NHIS coverage for formal retirees for additional 10 years after retiring at 60.

Mr Osagie said the government is reviewing the user guide of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) to aid provision of health services for the elderly through the NHIS gateway.

Functions of the new ministerial committee

“I shall inaugurate this committee, as part of Mr President’s commitment to improving the quality of care of the elderly, through the provision of health insurance, with the following Terms of Reference (TOR),” the minister said at the Monday briefing held in Abuja.

“The committee is to assess the current situation of health insurance coverage and access to healthcare for retirees and senior citizens (over 60 years) in Nigeria.

“It is to develop a National Framework for effective Health Insurance Coverage for retirees and senior citizens and undertake any other activity that will facilitate the Health Insurance Coverage,” he added.

He also announced Linus Awute, a retired Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Health, as chairman of the committee.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Awute thanked the government for giving him the opportunity to serve and promised to justify the confidence reposed in him and the other members of the committee.

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