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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Minister condemns announcement of new HMOs for civil servants

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Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare Mohammad Pate has criticized the Ministry of Defence’s announcement of a newly approved Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) for civil servants.

According to the minister, the debate on the introduction of HMOs is still ongoing and approval has not yet been granted, as announced by a Ministry of Defense official.

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He revealed it in a recent post on X.

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The Ministry of Defence, in a statement posted on its website on Thursday, announced the introduction of a new HMO called Federal Civil Service Health Maintenance Limited and it reportedly aims to ensure that civil servants across the country can afford medical care.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Ibrahim Kana, said President Bola Tinubu approved the new HMO.

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He said the new HMO, unlike others that serve service members and their dependents, aims to improve health care delivery specifically for federal officials.

According to him, this further demonstrates the president’s recognition of workers.

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“This comprehensive coverage will not only safeguard the health of our public servants but will also give them the peace of mind they deserve.

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“The Police and Military Service Commission has its independent HMOs different from NHIS, which is responsible for all military personnel and their dependents,” he said.

Kana said the creation of an exclusive HMO will improve healthcare delivery in the civil service and urged members to adopt the new policy.

“This is the beginning of a new era. We want you to embrace this new plan, take ownership of it, and work together to improve our tomorrow,” she added.

The minister’s reaction

However, in response to this, Pate expressed concern about announcing an initiative to the public, which is still subject to approval.

Pate said the initiative is still under review and is not ready for implementation, as revealed by the Ministry of Defence.

He revealed that the project is part of the reform of the National Health Insurance System (NHIA), which is still ongoing.

He also noted that the federal government is focused on providing affordable health care to all citizens and not a select group.

The minister said: “Very surprised to see this announcement on a matter that is far from concluded. This administration is focused in the health sector on expanding financial protection for all Nigerians, not just the privileged few.

READ ALSO: SPECIAL REPORT: Why many Nigerian healthcare workers are susceptible to Lassa fever

“The forces that held back progress on health insurance (only about 7 percent of the population or 16 million Nigerians covered in more than 20 years) woke up to undermine efforts to reform the NHIA to accelerate coverage for all Nigerians.”

The minister urged those responsible for the project to be patient and ensure that the necessary measures are taken before the implementation phase begins.

He said project proponents should “take some time, not confuse power with knowledge, and work on this effort constructively and as part of NHIA’s ongoing reforms.”

He also urged all concerned people to consider the implications of undermining Nigeria’s progress on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for what he described as “narrow and very short-term interests.”

“The reforms will expand coverage for civil servants (including through a duly established and adequately regulated Federal Civil Service HMO, coverage for retirees), while expanding protection for millions of poor and vulnerable Nigerians, not only for federal public officials,” the minister added.

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