‘Tax aviation, telecom sectors to fund elderly health insurance’

Lara Adejoro

The Ministerial Committee for the Provision of the National Health Insurance Scheme for the Retirees and Elderly has urged the Federal Government to tax the telecommunications and aviation sectors to fund health insurance for the retirees and elderly.

The committee made the call on Tuesday during its second presentation report to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at a press briefing held in Abuja.

The PUNCH reports that the committee was inaugurated to assess the situation of health insurance coverage and access to healthcare for retirees and senior citizens (over 60 years) and to develop a national framework for the effective health insurance coverage of retirees and senior citizens.

Speaking during the presentation, the Head of the Technical Working Group, Jonathan Eke, said other potential revenue sources for health insurance for older persons are a tax levied on the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, social health insurance contributions, diaspora remittance, and petroleum subsidy reinvestment.

Eke noted that with the signing of the National Health Insurance Act, health financing can be financed using any of the innovative financing options proposed.

“What we have tried to do is innovative financing mechanisms that can be used to reduce excessive dependence on the government to bring this funding. First, we looked at the general revenue which is the basic healthcare provision fund, and from what we have seen, the one per cent has hovered between N50 billion to 55 billion and we split into two, 50 per cent should come to the NHIA, which is about N20 billion and from that, we realised that the funding stream will not be enough to do much to even cover the elderly person.

“Recently, there have been a lot of discussions on sugar-sweetened beverage tax. We have to look at how to earmark that taxation for health to take care of externalities; not just that we want to increase the money in the coffers but we want to use it to pay for the negative impacts that these have in society.

“If we are using about 250 million lines and we realise that if we levy just one kobo per second, we will likely generate up to N272 billion from that if we do two kobo per second, it doubles.”

Adding, he said many West African countries are involved in aviation taxation.

“In France, there is one group called unitaid, they implemented this aviation tax and within a space of two years, they were able to generate about $2 billion and the money was given to the global fund,” he explained.

Also, the chairman of the committee, Linus Awute urged the government to increase investments in healthcare for coverage of health insurance of older persons.

“If the government can make do with the innovative financing options as proposed, health for all is possible, even for the elderly and retirees,” Awute said

Responding, Ehanire said the inclusion of the elderly in NHIS is under the vision to attain Universal Health Coverage of leaving no one behind and the recommendations will be carefully studied and implemented.

The minister said other interventions by the ministry to ensure the inclusion of senior citizens are the creation of an elderly branch in the Gender, Adolescent School Health and Elderly Care Division of the family health department in 2008 to formulate policy, guidelines, and action plans for the health care and well-being of the older persons.

“In 2016, the Ministry created a project called the Health Program for Improved Quality Care. Both the Elderly care program and the HEPIQ-C project have worked assiduously to ensure that the good health and well-being of the elderly are taken care of.

“In 2018, the FMOH embarked on the establishment of six Geriatric centers; one in each of the six geo-political zones. The project is on the course,” he said.

He added that the elderly and retirees will also benefit from the emergency medical services at no cost at the point of care.

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