Dr. Francis Chisaka Kasolo
The country representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Francis Chisaka Kasolo, has urged the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to expand its benefits package to cover critical illnesses, including kidney diseases.
According to him, this would bring down the cost of dialysis for the numerous patients who are struggling to afford the life-saving treatment.
“If our health insurance is strong, it can mitigate the cost of renal treatment services if it is included in the benefits package. This would have mitigated the out-of-pocket expenditures that we are beginning to see increase, and if that works, then we would have solved part of the problem of increasing out-of-pocket expenditure that we see with the dialysis cost,” he said.
Dr. Kasolo remarks follow the recent outcry of kidney patients over the increase in dialysis fees at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
Meanwhile, Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has backed calls for the expansion of the NHIS benefit package to cover kidney diseases.
He emphasised the need for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to absorb some of the expenses incurred by renal patients during dialysis sessions.
“The government is waiting on the management of Korle Bu to complete its internal work and come forward with what its position is.
“The conversation has been going on, and I personally suggested that whatever the amount comes to, it is a matter that the NHIS Fund should be able to pick up.
“To achieve that, we need to take a lot more seriously the financing of the NHIS Fund to take up incidents like this. The amount is not something an individual will be able to cater for considering the number of dialysis one has to go through in a month, without draining their finances extensively,” he said.
Mr. Nkrumah also expressed concern over the lack of remittances into the NHIS Fund since its inception by former President John Agyekum Kufuor.
He recommended automating the collection of funds on behalf of the Fund to eliminate potential loopholes.
“Today, the non-Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributor is paying GH¢28 as an annual premium, and the SSNIT contributor is paying GH¢8 as an annual premium; this is woefully inadequate.
“The NHIS levy that is collected on behalf of the NHIS Fund is not automatically remitted to the NHIS Fund. I believe that is something we also have to look at. We have never remitted 100% to the Fund since its introduction by former President Kufuor.
“I don’t think it’s honestly proper for us to collect monies in the name of the Fund and not remit those monies to the Fund. And it is something both the National Democratic Congress and New Patriotic Party have been doing since the days of former President Kufuor. We need to bring some automaticity to the amount of monies we collect on behalf of the Fund. If you do it this way, we can have money from the Fund that can take care of these costs,” he opined.
The Renal Patients Association recently disclosed that 14 outpatients of the renal unit at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital lost their lives after the unit was closed to them in May 2023.
A spokesperson for the association, Michael Asante, revealed that the deaths were attributed to the patients’ inability to access dialysis treatment at private dialysis centres, which is more expensive than the treatment offered at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
Patients seeking dialysis treatment at the Renal Unit were facing a new fee of GH¢765, a significant increase from the initial fee of GH¢385.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri