Why TB should be included in health insurance- Ogbuabor

By Hassan Zaggi

Stop Tuberculosis (TB) Partnership Board Member, Rt. Hon. Dr Emeka Ogbuabor, has argued that the devastating nature of TB and how it has given Nigeria a bad name-being 6th among the 30 high burden countries globally, and first in Africa, are good reasons for the ailment to be included into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

This, according to him, is to enable those affected to have access to affordable treatment.

Dr. Ogbuabor made his position known when speaking at the 4th Annual Legislative Summit on Health in Abuja, in a session sponsored by the Stop TB Partnership, USAID, and the Nigeria Parliamentary TB caucus.

He called on well-meaning Nigerians, corporate bodies and philanthropists to consider financing TB in health insurance.

While advancing reasons why TB deserve to be included in the Health insurance scheme, Dr. Ogbuabor said: “Globally, tuberculosis is the number one killer among the top 10 causes of deaths, and about 1.9 billion people globally are infected with tuberculosis.

“Every year, about 10 million people develop TB, including one million children, and over 800,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS. Nearly 500,000 people develop the variant of TB called the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and unfortunately, only one in three people receive treatment.

“Nigeria ranks 6th among the 30 high burden countries globally, and first in Africa as far as TB are concerned.

“We contribute about 11 percent of the global gap in the number of new TB cases, and after 440,000 estimated TB cases in Nigeria, we are only able to notify 27 percent. So where are over 70 percent of TB cases?”

He continued that: “An estimated 18 people die per hour of TB-related diseases, and that means we have 432 persons dying from TB everyday in Nigeria. Yet, we have about a 70 percent funding gap.

“Of the 30 percent funds we have used in 2019, 23 percent were developmental assistance funds; only 7 percent were domestically mobilisers.

“This is a call to action to prioritise tuberculosis within the context of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), such that we can achieve the health gain which translates to increased treatment success rates for TB, responsive TB treatment facilities and financial protection from hardship as a result of TB treatment.

“From the UHC perspective, that means we need to increase coverage, improve access and use, and then improve quality of TB care. This way we can guarantee improved TB outcomes.”

He further lamented that: “One of the key challenges today in TB domestic resources mobilization is how to integrate TB into the health insurance schemes. Many states have not done their actuarial analysis and cannot say how much it would cost additionally on their premium to support this process.

“How can we get the various state legislatures to include this in their agenda, and interface with their various state governments to get the required funds to do an actuarial study to find out how much it will cost, and use it as an advocacy tool to push for the equity funds to be released and fill the funding gap.

“If you look at the local government system, you will realise that very few local government areas have invested in TB. Not many states have put their money to TB. We need not just budgeting for TB, but the actual releases.

“The Anambra model of adoption that was used in mobilising resources for the state health insurance can be adopted even as we integrate TB into the health insurance schemes. I am sure there are philanthropists who would like to explore this altruistic financing to put in money.”

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