1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Ever since Emperor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany enacted the mandatory legislation on the “sickness funds” for working Germans in 1883, different models of health insurance have continued to evolve worldwide albeit with the same general insurance principles. In the developed world, insurance in one form or the other is a veritable and sustainable tool for financing healthcare. The National Health Insurance (NHIS) was launched in Nigerian on October 15, 1997 and was passed into law in May 1999. The original scheme has been modified to include healthcare for less privileged persons in the country (FMH, 1998).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005, Nigeria was ranked 197th out of 2000 nations; life expectancy was put at 48 years for male and 50 years for female while healthy life expectancy (HALE) for both sexes was put at 42 years. Nigeria accounts for 10% of global maternal mortality with 59,000 women dying annually from pregnancy and child birth; only 39% are delivered by skilled health professionals. In order to provide equitable distribution of health, the NHIS was introduced in Nigeria. The need for the establishment of the scheme was informed by the general poor state of the nation’s healthcare services, excessive dependence and pressure on the government’s provision of health facilities, dwindling funding of health care in the face of rising cost, poor integration of private health facilities in the nation’s healthcare delivery system and overwhelming dependence on out – of – pocket expenses to purchase health.
Like any other insurance scheme, the premium for the NHIS is the amount charged by the insurance compared with the promise to pay for any eventual “covered medical treatment” for the designated “coverage”. Consequently health insurance makes it possible to substitute a small but certain cost for a larger but uncertain loss (chain) under an arrangement in which the healthy majority compensate for the risks and costs of the unfortunate ill minority. The NHIS currently represents 15% of one’s basic salary. The employer is to pay 10% while the employee contributes 5% of his/her basic salary to enjoy healthcare benefits. The contribution made by the insured person entitles his/her spouse and four children under the age of 18 to full health benefits (FMH 2005).
NHIS was designed to provide minimum economic security for workers with regard to unfavorable losses resulting from accidental injury, sickness, old age, unemployment and premature death of family wage earner. NHIS is made compulsory because the government based on past experiences predicted that some citizens cannot engage in the scheme and the government also has the duty to protect the general welfare of all citizens (Ibiwoye and Adedeke, 2007). It is also the government’s belief that NHIS will help to break the vicious cycle of poverty in the country. It is also a form of social support for workers (Jutting, 2003). There is lack of health care coverage and little equity. Access to healthcare is limited and most Nigerians are unable to pay for health services and health facilities are far from being equitably distributed. All these contributed to the limitation in health services (Samin and Awe, 2009). The available health services are very expensive and the common man cannot afford it; only the privileged few can get access to good health. This study aims at assessing the level of knowledge, awareness and benefits of NHIS to the civil servants in Uyo LGA.