Nigerians Let’s Talk About Health Insurance

The average Nigerian does not have health insurance. I don’t have a survey telling me that but anecdotally and just knowing our environment, we know that is true. I know my people.

Among the few Nigerians who do have health insurance, the chances are that they’re not paying for sufficient coverage.

What’s the deal with that?

Well, for the most part I believe the biggest reason is that we don’t think it’s so important. There are other reasons, like cost, marketing, service quality on the side of insurance companies but the main one is that we don’t think it is important.

Except, it is. Every day we see people raising money on Twitter for medical operations. I’ve donated to a few. Sometime in 2016, I shared the story of a friend of mine, Paul Arisa who had lymphoma and people donated to him. As of right now, I even just saw a popular young Nigerian writer (who I won’t name) who is raising $25,000 or N9,000,000 for pelvic surgery due to injuries sustained in an accident. Its absolutely horrifying that our actors, actresses, writers, celebrities etc don’t even have health insurance, because if those ones have not seen the need how could you possibly convince the average man on the street. And it’s so hard not to donate to the fund raise drives because life is a precious thing and if your money can go a ways to help someone, then let it. But depending on the goodwill of strangers to bail us out of a critical medical situation is not sustainable. It’s never enough, it’s vulnerable to fraud, it doesn’t create a system that can be retained and used across the board for others and if you don’t have popularity or virality on your side, you’re out of luck.

Health insurance needs to become more popular. You as my reader, if you’re in Nigeria, need to get a plan that covers you. I asked an insurance professional and she says a private plan that covers major surgery, full medical expenses, hospital stay and the works will cost roughly N150,000 annually.

That is a WHOLE lot of money considering that it works out to about N12,500 monthly. If you make N120,000 a month that’s about 10% of your monthly income. If you make a lot more than that, consider getting that level of coverage but for most people, 10% a month on health Insurance isn’t realistic. But you don’t have to get that level of insurance. Basic health coverage that can cover hospital visits and prescriptions, lab tests and X-rays, hospital admission for up to a month and even ante natal and post natal care for 3 months cost roughly N2-3,000 a month in premiums. Many people can afford that. It saves you money in the long run but also it hedges your risk because you don’t know when you will really need it and as they say, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

And even better, you can enroll in the government sponsored National Health Insurance Scheme to get a plan like the one I just talked about for roughly N1,700 per month. Now that is affordable. A lot of us spend more than that on data every week so there is no excuse.

Hit up a Health Management Organization. I promise you you will be better off for it. No one prays for sickness to come or for accidents to happen but they do happen. And when they do, it is much better that you have insurance coverage than that you don’t.

Now when you pick Insurance don’t forget that your policy determines what options you have when it’s time for the company to pay for your medical bills. Sit down with a broker and take the time to understand your needs, their offerings, what premiums you can afford and what that gets you. Research the companies themselves to ensure they are reputable and financially sound. Ask for advice from professionals, and even from doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and more who more often than not have some insight on how these insurance companies rank against each other.

Do the homework.

Because for you to get ahead financially you have to know how to play not only offense but also defense. No point in building tons of savings and investments if one major sickness or accident wipes that away and even lands you in lots of debt. Better to factor that risk from the get go and cover your downside with insurance: home, auto and very importantly, health.

If you need more advice on this topic, reach out to Tega Abamba on twitter at @tegaphoenix or hit me up in the comments and I’ll link you to her. She is an insurance broker with Joken Insurance Brokers, Nigeria and knows far more about this subject than I ever could.

It’s estimated that health insurance penetration in Nigeria is less than 1%. Do your part in changing that statistic by getting health insurance today.

Salute.

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