|The National Health Insurance Authority [NHIA], is set to implement a nation-wide scale-up of a new product on its services platform known as, the NHIS Mobile Membership Renewal & Authentication Project. This mobile renewal of membership on the Scheme which has since been operational, will be officially launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo next Wednesday, December 19, 2018.
At a stakeholders’ meeting held in Bolgatanga with the media, some selected organisations and other strategic regional Heads of Department, a Deputy Director of Corporate Affairs at the NHIA Headquarters, Mr. Oswald Essuah-Mensah stated that the scale-up of the Project comes on the background of a successful pilot implemented in the West Mamprusi District of the Northern Region and in the Asuogyamang District of the Eastern Region during the early parts of this year.
He explained that under this new mobile membership renewal project, an NHIS client can easily renew his or her membership from anywhere across Ghana using any mobile phone registered to any mobile money service. He added that a person with any type of mobile phone as far as that phone is registered to a mobile money service, could also do the NHIS membership renewal for a client by sending a text to the Short Code *929# and following simple prompts thereafter.
The Corporate Affairs Officer called on stakeholders to embrace the mobile renewal service stressing that, it held good benefits for all including the clients, the service providers and the Scheme itself. He noted for instance that, it will bring about reduced waiting time for clients, reduced transportation costs since there won’t be any travels to Scheme offices and also, reduction in income losses as members can spend quality time doing business while texting to renew their cards. He added that, the Authority will send periodic “Reminder” text messages to members at least twice in a year to alert them of their expiry dates so as not to be taken unawares.
Touching on how the renewals via mobile phones will benefit NHIS Service Providers, Mr. Essuah-Mensah said it will afford them reliable digital verification of expiry dates, allow for the use of simple inexpensive devices with low maintenance costs, bring about improved claims management as well as allow for digital attendance records to be taken with ease. Meanwhile, the NHIA itself targets to lower its operational costs, increase its Scheme penetration, reduce revenue leakages in the system and also, induce better Claims Governance through the Project’s implementation.
He hinted that the Authority also plans to deploy some staff to the Service Provider points to assist clients whenever necessary. According to him, a broad goal of the NHIA is to achieve Universal Health Care by year 2030 through improved access to affordable, quality healthcare for all residents in Ghana and to improve the financial sustainability of the Scheme by reducing registration bottlenecks and cost to the NHIA through implementation of pragmatic programmes such as the mobile renewal project.
Meanwhile, the Specific Objectives of the digitization of the membership renewals targets to increase renewal and enrolment rates by 20 percent within one year, enhance customer experience by reducing renewal time by up to 95 percent, to create awareness for the short code [*929#] and to enhance education on the renewal & authentication processes among NHIS Staff, Providers and Members.
The Corporate Affairs officer appealed to the media to educate the general public about the service benefits to Members, the Scheme and the Providers and also, to encourage all healthcare providers to embrace the project by adopting and signing onto it. He however cautioned the public to be weary of potential fraudsters who may want to dupe unsuspecting people emphasizing that “the service is free, never give your PIN away”.
He also called on the Telcos to expand coverage of their networks to at least all Service Provider sites in order to enable the mobile renewal project to succeed. Director of Membership and Regional Operations at the NHIA, Mr. Ben Kusi in his remarks urged all members of the NHIS to regularly update their records such as phone numbers, so as to ease communication and other forms of engagements between them and the Scheme.
He observed that with the full cooperation and signing up of Service Providers and members, the project will become efficient and will enhance audit efforts aimed at eradicating fraudulent claims and other financial misappropriations in the system.
Mr. Kusi also revealed that the Authority had recruited five lawyers who have since been trained by the Attorney General’s [AG] Department and that, a FIAT was expected soon from the AG’s office to give clearance for the NHIA to prosecute its own cases. He noted that, this will deter staff of the NHIA and service providers alike from contemplating or actually indulging in any financial malfeasance.
He disclosed that there were 540 medicines on the NHIS Medicines List for prescription to members and added that, all health facilities were obliged “ethically not to turn away any patient during emergencies because of absence of an Insurance Card or inability to pay at that point in time”.
Upper East Regional Director of the NHIA, Mr. Sebastian Alagpulinsa, asked the media to contact his office any time they needed clarification about issues on the new mobile membership renewal project and any other matters concerning the workings of the NHIS in the region. He observed that as its often the case with new interventions, there may be few challenges with the implementation but was quick to add that, these would be rectified in time.