KIGALI - A visiting delegation from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) of Nigeria, yesterday commended the country’s health insurance policies citing best practices that Rwanda would share with their country.
The team of 22 is in the country to learn from Rwanda’s experience as they lay plans to roll out a comprehensive countrywide insurance scheme that will cover the informal sector which accounts for about 70 percent of the Nigerian population.
While welcoming the delegation, the Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, said that the country’s health insurance system has been strengthened over time and is one of the key reasons why every Rwandan can now access quality healthcare.
“Our insurance system started as a small idea targeting a small population of about 1 million, mainly those infected with HIV and could not access basic healthcare needs.
We believe that once people are healthy, then they can easily uplift themselves from poverty,” the minister said.
“Today, the policy has been fully owned by the population at community level. Leaders are accountable and ensure that citizens are covered by the insurance scheme.
Community contributions are managed at sector level and the government tops up through referral and district hospitals,” Dr. Binagwaho explained.
She informed the team that through the policy, every Rwandan can access care at health centres or referral hospitals, and that when need arises for treatment that cannot be offered in Rwanda, a patient can be transferred to other hospitals abroad.
The Chairman of the delegation, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, a former Health Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, noted that Rwanda’s health progress was quite impressive and offered good lessons for Nigeria which is about to implement an insurance scheme to cater for millions in Africa’s most populous nation.
He largely attributed the success to a focused leadership with a mission of restoring dignity to its people and hailed their trip to Rwanda.
“Right from the time we planned this trip, the team here in Rwanda has been very active. We got direct responses from the Minister of Internal Affairs on our visa application process and now that we have learnt about the policy here, we believe that we can draw ways of implementing ours as well,” he said.
Dr. Binagwaho emphasised that the success of the Rwanda’s health insurance system was largely due to commitment from the top leadership which recognises its population as its greatest asset.
“However, for Rwanda’s healthcare plans to be sustainable and meaningful, they have to hinge on the success of similar plans across the continent,” the minister said.
“This is why we are happy to share with you our lessons, so that you are also able to come up with a good plan for the great people of Nigeria”.
She urged the visiting team to trace the best pilot practice that will help engage the Nigerian population because universal access to quality healthcare is key to eliminating poverty and hence economic development.
The delegation will focus on Mutuelle de Sante, RAMA, Military Medical Insurance (MMI) and other private sector schemes in the country.