Health Insurance: Minister condemns announcement of new HMO for civil servants

Mohammad Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, has faulted the announcement of a new Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) for civil servants by the Ministry of Defence.

According to the minister, debate on the introduction of HMOs was still ongoing, and approval was yet to be granted, as announced by an official of the Ministry of the Defence.

He disclosed this in a recent post on X

The Ministry of Defence, in a statement published on its website on Thursday, announced the introduction of a new HMO called Federal Civil Service Health Maintenance Limited and, reportedly, targeted at ensuring that civil servants across the country can afford health care.

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

He said the new HMO, unlike the others which cater for service members and their dependents, aims to enhance healthcare delivery specifically for federal civil servants.

According to him, this further proves the president’s acknowledgement of the workforce.

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

“The Military and the Police Service Commission have their independent HMOs different from the NHIS, which is responsible for all the servicemen and their dependents,” he said.

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

“This is the dawn of a new era. We want you to embrace this new scheme, own it and work together for our better tomorrow,” he added.

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

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

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

He also pointed out that the federal government is focused on providing affordable healthcare to every citizen rather than a selected group.

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

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

The minister urged those in charge of the project to exercise patience and ensure that required steps are taken before an implementation phase begins.

He said proponents of the project should “tarry a bit, not conflate power with knowledge, and work through this effort constructively and as part of the NHIA reforms underway.”

He also urged all concerned individuals 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 properly established and appropriately regulated Federal Civil Service HMO, coverage for retirees, at the same time as expand protection for millions of poor and vulnerable Nigerians, not only for the Federal Civil Servants,” the minister added.

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