Though Ghana has now become a model for Africa, it has been asked not to be complacent because the country’s scheme was unique but has examples worth sharing and learning from, Professor Richard Muga, Chairman of the National Hospital Insurance Fund of Kenya said on Wednesday.
The three-day congress, which was attended by over 200 delegates from 27 countries and institutions, is being hosted by the Centre for Health & Social Services and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and World Health Organisation.
The congress will initiate dialogue between government ministers, insurance schemes in Africa and also discuss best ways to initiate and sustain long term health insurance schemes across Africa.
He said Ghana learnt from Kenya which started health insurance 45 years ago but has managed to progress steadily in its ten years of establishment adding that the political commitment was heart-warming and impressive.
“Ghana has come far and is a perfect example worth emulating and should work hard to protect it,” he said.
Mr James Nyoro, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation, said a great deal of work has already been done on health insurance on the continent but there was the need to draw available material together, focus on the neglected issues and integrate insights on these areas into the overall health insurance policy framework.
“Currently, health care financing in many African countries was predominantly paid for by users out of pocket. The strain of high health care costs on household livelihoods calls for immediate attention and relentless efforts on the part of policy makers,” he said.
The meeting, he said, was timely to take stock and share the success story of an African and developing country and encouraged other African countries to emulate the examples of Ghana and Uganda adding that universal coverage was gaining attention.
Dr Placido Cardoso, Director General of the West Africa Health Organsation (WAHO), said the agenda for universal coverage has remained the agenda for ECOWAs for a long time and attributed the delay to the conflict suffered by the sub-region but noted that things were now stabilizing.
He said following the Abuja Declaration, the heads of state have been looking for opportunities to engage with African experts and research institution to define a clear pathway for universal coverage for Africa.
“WAHO would fully engage any movement that is created for the benefit of the African people,” he added.
Mr Sylvester Mensah, Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority, said though praise has been showered on Ghana, the NHIA is not oblivious of the challenges adding that the congress brought a unique atmosphere to cross fertilize ideas.
He said Ghana would be the greatest beneficiary because it was hungry for creative ideas to move on but was quick to add that the greatest enemy would be ignorance because health insurance was a technical discipline.
Ghana would soon link treatment to diagnosis to improve efficiency and quality and introduce capitation as additional provider payment mechanism. A pilot project will start with one region in December 2011, he said.
Mr. Sam Adjei, Chief Executive of the Centre for Health and Social Services, stated that, “Bringing expects across the continent to discuss Universal Health Insurance will provide the opportunity to share best practices, that is, what has worked and what hasn’t worked across the continent.”