Since its re-launch on September 14, 2018, and subsequent enrolment which started on November 5, 2018, over 82,000 persons have registered with the Anambra State Health Insurance Scheme. In terms of the number of enrolment, it is the fourth biggest state health insurance scheme in the country after those of Lagos, Delta and Kano states which began much earlier, but certainly the fastest growing and the one with the highest volume of informal sector players. No state health insurance agency has enrolled as many as 82,000 lives in just a little over a year.
No one is surprised at the growth. With just N12,000 a person can join the scheme and receive practically free medical treatment for one year at any of the participating 268 hospitals in the state, including the two teaching hospitals in Anambra, namely, the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital in Nnewi and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital at Amaku, Awka. The treatment includes surgical procedures, some of which ordinarily cost over N300,000 each. ASHIA officials studied the operation of similar schemes in some foreign countries as well as the management of similar ones by the Nigerian federal government and various state governments before re-launching the Anambra State Health Insurance Scheme.
What is more, the ASHIA executive secretary and chief executive, Dr Simeon Onyemaechi, is a medical doctor with special skills in public health management. With experience in the private sector and in the National Health Insurance Scheme, Onyemaechi works with passion, tremendous energy, uncommon foresight and, of course, sincerity of purpose. Impressed by his talent and devotion to duty, Governor Willie Obiano made Onyemaechi his Special Adviser on Health and a member of the state executive council within one year of Onyemaechi’s assumption of office as the ASHIA’s helmsman. Obiano’s support for the insurance scheme is axiomatic or self-evident: he provided it with N200m seed money immediately the scheme took off, and with the grant some 10,086 vulnerable persons across the state persons were automatically covered.
Wealthy Anambra indigenes have been embracing the scheme. For instance, on Saturday, January 26, 2020, Daniel Chukwudozie, chairman of both Dozzy Oil and Dozzy Foundation, enrolled 1,000 lives in his hometown of Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area, amounting to N12m. At the ceremony attended by the Anambra State Deputy Governor, Dr Nkem Okeke, and the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, and other top government functionaries, the Dozzy Foundation chairman was so impressed with the support of the state government for his gesture to his own community that he decided to enroll an additional 500 lives which increased his original sponsorship of N12m to N18m.
A number of successful Okija indigenes at the ceremony, including Paul Erinne, an engineer and foremost philanthropist, quickly enrolled hundreds of more lives in the Okija community, bringing the total number enrolled in one day in Okija to 1,350. The Dozzy Foundation had a few weeks earlier done some renovation work at the Okija General Hospital and sunk a borehole there to make life more meaningful for his people.
Significant to bear in mind is that neither Dr Chukwudozie nor any of the persons who supported him at the enrolment of lives in Okija with the Anambra State Health Insurance Agency is resident in the town. They are simply motivated by love of their community. They are also driven by their deep concern for the less privileged in their midst who cannot afford the considerable medical costs in the country. They are, in addition, driven by their belief in the integrity and efficiency of the Anambra State health insurance scheme.
It needs to be pointed out that it is not only very wealthy persons who can pay for individuals and groups that may wish to participate in the insurance scheme. Of course, there are not-so rich individuals who have embraced what the Anambra State government calls the adoption method by paying for the health insurance of their people. After all, it costs only N12,000 in a whole year, or N1,000 per month, to register a person with the scheme, so that the latter can receive good medical treatment for one year in a standard hospital. There are so many individuals around the state who have registered 100 lives, or even fewer, through the adoption method.
Officials of the current administration have demonstrated leadership by personal example by paying for indigent members of their various communities. For instance, the Commissioner for Lands, Mr Bonaventure Enemali, is one of the first top government officials to do so by enrolling 100 persons from his Nzam community in Anambra West Local Government Area.
Not to be outdone, Governor Obiano has just announced the enrolment of all Nigerian Civil War veterans living in the state as well as all members of the Rangers International Football Club of Enugu who played in the 1970s and the early 1980s. The Civil War veterans and the Rangers players will benefit regardless of their states of origin.
The Anambra State Health Insurance Scheme is arguably the most far-reaching humane initiative of the Obiano administration. There is perhaps nothing as valuable as good health. Extreme poverty and bad economy have over the decades denied millions of Nigerians proper medical attention. One remarkable thing about the Anambra Health Insurance Scheme is the quality of service it offers, unlike in some other states where patients with insurance don’t receive reasonable treatment because of the low amounts they pay to participating health facilities.
The time has come for organizations like churches, professional, trade and market associations to register their members with ASHIA. Let them follow the footsteps of the Anambra State government which registered all civil servants and teachers on the scheme no sooner than it was launched. Those who can afford it should pay without delay for their indigent relatives, friends and community members the way philanthropists like Dr Chukwudozie of the Dozzy Foundation have done for their people. There can hardly be a better demonstration of solidarity with the human family than participation in initiatives like the Anambra State Health Insurance Scheme.
God bless Anambra State, the Light of the Nation.
– Adinuba is Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, Anambra State