Director-General of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Prof. Mohammed Sambo yesterday said the new NHIA Act will ensure that 83 million poor and vulnerable Nigerians have access to qualitative healthcare services.

Sambo explained that the NHIA Act contains provisions for the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF), ‘which shall be expended to provide subsidy for health insurance coverage of vulnerable persons as determined by the Council; and for the payment of health insurance premiums for the indigent’.

‘The Vulnerable Group Fund will be funded through the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), health insurance levy, special intervention allocated by the government, money accrued to the Fund from investments, grants, donations, gifts and other voluntary contributions,” he noted.

Sambo, who addressed a news conference in Abuja, said: “At the point when President Muhammadu Buhari was signing the NHIA Law, he made a pledge that Nigeria and his government will make provision for the 83 million segment of vulnerable populations to be covered under the social health insurance. This is one of the potencies of the mandatory bill.

“We are happy that the Office of the Vice President has carried out a national social register which has identified people that are poor in all states. The register is within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. We plan to utilise the register. Since the programme will be implemented at the state level, we will ask the states to ensure that at the point of capturing people into the National Health Insurance Scheme, that data is validated.

“After validation, we intend to deploy the implementation of the Vulnerable Group Fund. The mechanism for the Vulnerable Group Fund will be exactly like the mechanism of the BHCPF. We will utilise state structures to deliver this through close monitoring and deploying of ICT.

“NHIA is making a very strong case that the tax from Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSBs) should be channeled to the NHIS to cover the vulnerable in the population. That does not push away our quest for the telecommunication tax. We will still go and pursue the telecommunication tax to ensure it is encapsulated in the financial act of the government, so that whatever proceeds that is approved from there can come to the national health insurance scheme.”