The Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health has underscored the need for government to legislate a policy on free universal health care in Ghana.
Speaking at a campaign forum held in Bolgatanga at the weekend, the Regional Vice Chairman of the Coalition, Mr Alagskomah Asakeya Noble, stressed that there should be free healthcare for all citizens of Ghana.
“The current system even though good is not the best because it is discriminatory and benefits the rich which defeats the purpose of the NHIS”, he stressed.
He indicated that a bulk of the National Health Insurance Scheme( NHIS) which is 70 per cent, came from taxes that every citizen contributed to, directly or indirect, yet those who were unable to pay and register with the scheme were prevented from access to health care.
He said the remaining 30 per cent revenue mobilized by the NHIS from the people could not even run the administration of the NHIS and so the scheme depended on the 70 per cent mobilized from tax to support its administration.
“It is estimated that nationally, about 60 per cent of the population has access to health facilities. However, among the rural population this figure is much lower, with only 37 per cent living within one hour travel time (by any available means) from a health facility.
“Currently about 70 per cent of funds for the NHIS come from tax (VAT levy), while premiums contribute about five per cent. Those excluded from the NHIS still pay user fees in the cash and carry system, and millions of citizens who cannot afford are still excluded from the health care they need”, he stated.
He indicated that the WHO recommended proportion of total health care expenditure of about 15 per cent to 20 per cent from government but that of Ghana was contributing less than that. He noted that this was denying a lot of people from accessing health care, especially those in deprived areas.
He said the Coalition was of the view that if Government increased the Value Added Tax a bit, increased property tax, corporate tax, increased mining tax and took off free zone tax including the allocation from the oil sector, it would be able to mobilize adequate funds to cater for the healthcare needs of all Ghanaians.
“Many in the private sector have been evading tax. If all these are brought on board, enough resources will be mobilized to sustain the programme without any hindrance”.
The aim of the forum was to engage stakeholders in the Region to present to them facts about the National Health Insurance status and to discuss the opportunity of tax base financing of the National Health Insurance Scheme which would ensure a more sustainable and accessible form of healthcare for the people of Ghana.
Participants including staff of the Ghana Health Service, the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC), District Assemblies, the traditional rulers and school children attended the forum.
The Traditional Authorities confirmed that majority of their subjects could not afford to pay the GH¢12, particularly in instances where family heads were forced by the Scheme to pay in bulk for their family members.
They also complained about the three months renewal period and said it was hindering many people from accessing health care when they were critically in need, since they would not be able to attend to any facility until three months when their cards were renewed.