By Nathan Nwakamma
The Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme (BHIS) has so far enrolled 108,156 persons in less than two years of its commencement.
Dr Zuoboemi Agadah, Executive Secretary of BHIS made this known on Monday in Yenagoa in his opening remarks at the BHIS Enrollee’s Forum.
Agadah said that having covered the public servants, plans had reached advanced stage to commence enrolment of private and informal sectors in the scheme.
He noted that about 5,000 retirees were already enjoying services under the scheme.
According to Agadah, civil servants in the state started receiving quality medical care at no extra cost apart from the two per cent of their consolidated salaries deducted at source from September 2017.
He said that the scheme had contributed significantly to safer childbirth among civil servants and reduced infant mortality rates as the rate of hospital patronages by expectant mothers had also improved.
The executive secretary said that the BHIS organised the interactive session with enrollees to get feedback from the beneficiaries with a view to improving their overall experience.
He noted that the management of BHIS had earlier met with healthcare providers for the same purpose.
Agadah said that the state government established the governance structure where the BHIS appointed a third party administrator – United Healthcare International – to run the scheme through accredited healthcare providers in Bayelsa.
He said that the BHIS had accredited 80 healthcare providers before take-off, saying that efforts were underway to commence re-accreditation of facilities of healthcare providers in the state.
Prof Onyaye Kunle-Olowu, Chairperson of BHIS, noted that BHIS had intervened in the healthcare situation in the state by ensuring that the contributions paid by enrollees were managed to provide services to those in need.
She said that in 2018, more than 900 surgeries were carried out on enrollees by accredited healthcare providers while the scheme picked the bills.
Kunle-Olowu urged the enrollees to feel free to share their experiences to enable the scheme play its regulatory role and improve on the scheme.
“We have had encouraging testimonies from beneficiaries who have had surgeries and caesarean section without paying an extra kobo apart from the premium paid by the enrollee, which covers spouse and four biological children.
“Like everything human, we are not yet perfect, there are bound to be issues and we appeal to enrollees to bring their experiences to us.
“We have acquired toll-free telephone lines to ensure that we get instant complaints whenever there is an issue.
“We have set up the necessary framework to provide quality healthcare to our enrollees that take ill.
“From available data, about 14 per cent of our enrollees have attended hospitals to access services without making any kind of out-of-pocket payment at the hospitals.
“The contributions deducted from enrollees’ salaries are used to take care of the cost of treatment of any enrollee or his dependant that falls sick, ‘’ Kunle -Olowu said.
Dr Kazeem Mustapha, Executive Director of United Healthcare, coordinated the interactive session with enrollees and expressed delight that the scheme had reduced the financial burden of healthcare.
Mr Obene Zuowefa, who shared her experiences, said that she had a successful surgery at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital recently.
Zuowefa said that soon after recovery, she was diagnosed of acute apendisitis which required another surgery.
“I want to express gratitude to this Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme. I did not pay a kobo for the two surgeries.
“If not for this, only God knows what the situation would have been because my salary cannot cope,’’ Zuowefa said.
Mrs Blessing Emera, another Civil Servant, said that she also benefited from the scheme when she underwent surgery in September 2018 in one of the accredited hospitals and had her bills settled by BHIS.
However, Mr Daniel Orukari, who works with Bayelsa Government Treasury, complained that the accredited hospitals often claimed that most of the recommended drugs were either not available or not covered by the scheme.
Responding, Agadah explained that the scheme, modelled after the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) approved a list of generic drugs to be dispensed to enrollees.
He said that part of the requirements for accreditation of healthcare providers was the maintenance of a pharmacy stocked with essential drugs on the BHIS list.
Agadah threatened to delist any accredited facility found wanting as the BHIS paid a monthly capitation fee of N43 million to the accredited hospitals; even if no enrollee turns up; in addition to the medical bills of beneficiaries that fall sick.