Lack of adequate funding and political goodwill have been identified as major impediments to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Health Security in low-middle-income countries.
These dominated discussions at a two-day regional conference on the theme, "Overcoming barriers and providing financial risk protection," held in Ghana's capital, Accra from October 12 to 13, 2023.
Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly hosted the policy dialogue to deliberate concrete actions required to optimize domestic financing for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Health Security which are critical for accelerating progress towards the realization of UHC by the year 2030.
The regional dialogue which marked the commencement of Ghana's NHIS 20th Anniversary and the WHO 75th Anniversary in Ghana convened key stakeholders including managers of 30 health insurance agencies in Africa, finance ministries, development partners, the academia, civil society organizations, and the media.
The participating countries made presentations on their respective health insurance scheme's achievements, challenges, and the way forward in achieving UHC.
In the end, the stakeholders outlined innovations and pathways for African nations to mobilize more domestic resources for financing UHC and Health Security.
There was a strong call for increased investments in UHC and Health Security to achieve effective health systems in low-middle-income countries.
They recommended that more efforts should thus be made to ensure that health remains a priority in low-middle-income countries where governments are struggling to address the global economic downturn, post the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
They highlighted the urgent need for African governments to establish innovative and sustainable health financing mechanisms and expand health insurance coverage.
The conference which was held at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra sought to promote multi-sectoral collaboration and foster partnerships between key stakeholders to ensure that no one is left behind in terms of universal access to quality and affordable healthcare services.
At the opening ceremony, Ghana's Health Minister, Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu recounted the NHIS journey and called for more concerted efforts to sustain it.
"Ghana's NHIS has gotten massive international recognition but much more needs to be done to sustain it. Let's keep expanding social health insurance schemes to ensure that populations are protected from catastrophic health expenditures."
The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Board Chairman, Dr. Ernest K. P Kwarko touted Ghana's NHIS as the beacon of other schemes in the Subregion.
He urged all actors in the health sector to rekindle the spirit and make the NHIS more resilient and sustainable.
Dr. Ernest Kwarko said the practice of demanding extra monies (Co-payments) for services covered by the NHIS is totally unacceptable and reaffirmed management's determination to stop it.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a speech read on her behalf, advocated the development of robust health financial systems to ensure that no one is indeed left behind, in relation to having access to quality and affordable healthcare services.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti underscored the need for stakeholders to work in a comprehensive and inclusive manner to scale up coverage of health insurance schemes in Africa.
She is convinced that adequate health financing could lead to reducing Out-of-Pocket Payments for services covered by health insurance schemes.
The regional conference was organized by Ghana's Ministry of Health, NHIS Ghana, World Health Organization (WHO), and sponsored by Margins Group, Roche, , Oesterreichische StaatsDruckerei (OSD), National Insurance Commission (NIC), DocuPro, Apex Health Insurance, Nationwide Medical Insurance, IPMC, CAL Bank, Omni Bank, Republic Bank, Suric Services Limited, Jokwat Ltd, Buck Press, Zoomlion, UNFPA, Foreign Development and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) and Metropolitan Health Insurance.
Source: ABDUL KARIM NAATOGMAH