Prof. Mohammed Sambo, the Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), says enrolees under the scheme can assess partial treatment for cancer.
Sambo, who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, said it would be difficult to cover the treatment of cancer totally.
“Yes, we cover some aspects of cancer care when you look at our benefit package.
“You will see that some cancer drugs, chemotherapy drugs are covered but not as comprehensive as a total package for a cancer patient.
“Secondly, there are some surgeries that are cancer-related that are covered in the national health insurance scheme.
“An example is mastectomy, a woman who has cancer of the breast will require a surgery probably the partial removal or total removal of the breast.
“This is included in the national health insurance scheme benefit package and threy are even some limited radiotherapy that is covered in the health insurance.
“It is very difficult for us to take the burden of treating cancer completely, because the cost is enormous.
“If you have many cancer patients who are supposed to get comprehensive treatment and under the Social Health Insurance, it will be very difficult.
The executive secretary emphasised that it would be difficult to treat cancer completely because the contribution from enrolees was not generous to address the cost.
“If you look at the contributors for instance, the former sector under the public sector for the federal government employees and you look at their salary, it is five per cent of the proportion of the salary that is taken.
“If not because the minimum wage has increased, it was 18,000 and if you take the five per cent of 18,000, that is what is being contributed by somebody who is in the lower cadre.
“If you also take the salary of the person in the higher cadre, (director for instance) you now put them together because the minimum wage is not fantastic in Nigeria.
“It is not fantastic in Nigeria as compared to other countries that have gone far in achieving universal health coverage.”
“For example, if you compare Turkey and Nigeria, Turkey with a population of about 85 million, they have been able to achieve 99.5 per cent coverage.
”And if you look at their minimum wage you will see that when we did the last calculation, it was about N400,000 so if you compare the pool of N400,000 and the pool of N18,000, the kind of benefit package that that fellow will purchase for you will not be compared with the one that the minimum wage of N18,000 will cover.
“So the level of ailment of people has bearing with the amount of contribution to generate and therefore, the amount of services that it can cover.”
Secondly, Sambo explained that even in the cause of attaining Universal Health Coverage, there would be two categories – people that earn income and people that do not have income.
“People that have no income in those countries where they attained universal health coverage, it is the government that pays for them and if the government pays for those people, they will get the services.
“But political economy as well as epidemiology has a lot to bear in the cost of this population and the payment.
“If you are in a country where the majority of the population are below poverty line, it, therefore, means that the minority who are earning the salary are the ones that will cross subsidise.
“For those who have no salary, assuming the government is not making a subsidy, it, therefore, means that the government has to do a lot in payment of subsidy in order to be able to achieve universal health coverage.
”This is opposed to a country where they have a good Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the minority of the people are below the poverty line,’’ he said.
According to him, it therefore means that the majority will subsidise for the minority and it is very easy to attain universal health coverage in that kind of climate.
“This is why you also look at private sector participation, you look at other innovative healthcare financing, to be able to gather the amount of money that is required and that is exactly what we want to start rolling out.”