Nigeria's Senate Passes New Legislation, a Leap Forward for Health Coverage for All
Last month, Nigeria's Federal Capitol Territory (FCT) took a major step toward universal health coverage with the passage of two previously stymied bills. Once signed into law, the two bills will open the door for the FCT to access the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF). The BHCPF is a national- and state-level mechanism that aims to extend health insurance coverage and provide a range of free services beyond the public and formal private sectors to the country’s most vulnerable groups, particularly pregnant women, children under five years old, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and people in the informal sector with little access and ability to pay for primary healthcare.
HP+ supported FCT leadership through each step of the legislative process, assisting with evidence generation and building the capacity of leaders and advocates. The project will continue to provide this assistance as each bill moves forward for concurrence and authorization by Nigeria’s president, the next and final stages.
HP+ Nigeria Country Director Onoriode Ezire said, “The passage of these bills will improve access to quality healthcare for residents of the FCT. The State Health Insurance bill will address financial barriers to assessing healthcare, especially among the poor; while the Primary Health Care Board bill is aimed at improving access to quality care at the primary healthcare level, thus reducing [the] stress and demand on secondary healthcare facilities.”
Momentum around the BHCPF increased significantly last year with approved funding under the 2018 national budget. Since then, health reform has steadily advanced as individual states secure the systems and legal backing needed to access the fund; the FCT, however, has lagged behind. Without the Primary Health Care Board and State Health Insurance bills in place, the territory’s insurance scheme has struggled to expand coverage, managing to cover only civil servants and their dependents, less than 5% of the population. Through these two bills, access to the fund is expected to greatly increase access to insurance and health services and reduce maternal and under-five mortality rates and household financial hardship resulting from medical costs.
Dr. Ahmed Danfulani, program manager of the FCT Health Insurance Scheme commented, “HP+, with the support of USAID, has been a reliable partner in our quest to operate sustainable health insurance in the FCT.” He went on to say, “Our desire is to set up a sustainable insurance scheme that would provide coverage to all residents.…Achieving this will enable us to manage risks…[and] help provide insurance for those who cannot afford it.”
HP+ will continue its support to the FCT and other states to maintain the momentum of these recent health reforms and help Nigeria achieve a sustainable, domestically resourced, and equitable health system.