Nigeria’s health experts are considering the health insurance systems of the United Kingdom, Ghana and Ethiopia among options the country could adopt to achieve universal health coverage at a presidential summit currently underway in Abuja.

The UHC mandate for Nigeria aims to ensure up to 30% of Nigerians have some form of health cover by 2015.

This comes some 10 years after Nigeria launched efforts toward universal health coverage.

“We are 10 years after the launch of the formal programme, and where we are now is certainly below 10% coverage,” said former health minister Eyitayo Lambo, credited with midwifing Nigeria’s health insurance programme. “That means we have a long way to go.”

“We should spend the next three days [of the summit] getting ideas on how we can refine it,” Lambo said.

Up to 7 in 10 Nigerians still pay for health care out of their own pocket, a situation that continually pushes them into more poverty, said Dr Inke Mathauer, a health systems analyst at WHO’s department of health systems governance and financing in Geneva.

England’s National Health Scheme is universal and covers every resident of the country.

It is largely paid for by tax but cost the government £120 billion last year, but considered the second largest employer of labour after the Chinese army, said Dr Afolabi Ogunlesi, a consultant working under the NHS, noting how such health scheme could create jobs.

But he also suggested framework to ensure quality in the fashion of the GMC which validates doctors every five years.

Ethiopia operates a health insurance that’s hugely community-based but targeting formal sector workers and pensioners in more than 130 districts of the country, said Assefa Feleke, communications director for Ethiopia’s health insurance agency.

Ghana is still expanding benefit package in its health insurance but it is funded through social security and value added taxation–2.5% in a health insurance fund and another 2.5% in social security contribution.

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