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Nigeria to commence health insurance for senior citizens

Agency Report

The National Senior Citizens Centre is packaging a health insurance scheme to cater for the health needs of senior citizens in the country.

The Director-General of the Centre, Dr. Emem Omokaro, made the announcement in Abuja on Sunday at an interview session of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Ms Omokaro said that the management of the centre was working currently to enlist stakeholders, who would sponsor the scheme for the benefit of the senior folks. “Access to health care is free in some developed countries because someone has paid for it. The challenge in Nigeria is not to say that this is free. It is who is paying for the service and how sustainable can the payment be?”

She disclosed that the Federal Government had set up a committee to revise the National Social Protection Policy, to take special care of senior citizens.“The 2017 National Social Protection Policy has been undergoing revision for nearly a year. We have identified all categories of older persons and we have noticed that the policy did not have an implementation working document and there was no cost attached to it.

“It was just a guiding document that the present administration picked and then identified some pillar programmes and embarked on. Right now as I speak, the final draft of the policy has been brought to an inter-ministerial committee for review.” The director-general pointed out that in some societies, senior citizens were given near-free medical care, noting, however, that whatever that was given free to the senior folks must have been paid for by some sponsors.

Ms Omokaro advised that while doing a comparison of countries, one should try to determine if the care provided was by legislation or via a trust fund. “What is the basic health package? Have they paid for you when you can approach the hospital and ask: can I have surgery; can I check my heart and do full body check? What is the content of the healthcare that is free? So we thank this administration for now embarking on revising the policy.”

Senior Citizens

The director-general assured that health insurance, which senior citizens and retirees were not enjoying, would soon become a thing of the past. “After you have retired now, you will realize how much you have overworked your body and how your body will start demanding something from you. That is when you need your health.”

Ms Omokaro revealed that the ministerial committee, which she was a member of before her current appointment as director-general, did a good job of appraising the issues – relating to who pays for healthcare?  “All these questions have been answered in the report which is going to be submitted to the Federal Government soon. I know that with the political commitment of this administration, older persons and anybody who retires will soon get the service.”

She described older citizens as a diverse segment of the population, who should deserve health benefits as their dividend for being citizens of the nation.

Identity Cards

She also said plans were being made to create identity cards for the aged for easy access to social amenities in the country. Ms Omokaro said that the identity card for the aged would enable them to get prompt and first-hand services. According to her, older persons face a lot of challenges in society; not just attitudinal barriers but also physical barriers resulting in discrimination. She said that the aged do not deserve such treatments due to the years and what they had given to society, adding that they deserved better pay back from society.

“One of such ways is the society should give back to the elderly by way of creating age-friendly services for the senior citizens. So we want to build a Nigeria where senior citizens will be dignified; we want Nigeria to see it also in the sense of financial assistance. When you go into the bank, you just see older persons lined up, youths are in front, the older persons are lined up behind, this should never happen. So the idea is that they should walk anywhere and get prompt service with their ID.”

Ms Omokaro said that there should be safe transportation for them with discounts.

“There was a time when we had this in Nigeria, so with their ID they can go to hospital or to a pharmacy and get pharmaceutical coupons. If they want to be seated on the train, they get first-class services. You don’t have to announce I am old, once people see your ID card, they just know,” she said

Ms Omokaro said that the centre was looking for a Nigeria where youth would want to grow old. She said because they would see the elderly and respect them “and they see the tradition of society that pays back somebody who has invested so much in the country.”

She said that the centre at inception interacted with older persons, urging them to list their needs so they could be catered for properly. “They came listing them and one of it was that they had suffered enough discrimination. They said please identify us and we need age-friendly services. That was in the communique that I now took amongst others to present to the minister and with a memo to facilitate it – this is what they want – to Hajia Sadiyah Farouk, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. So she is pushing it, hopefully, we will hear the news,’’ she said.

The DG stressed the need to establish the anti-elder abuse response volunteer squad, saying it would caution and curb various abuses encountered by older persons in society. Some of the abuses she listed as being encountered by older persons were verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial, caregiver and family abuses. She however noted that the centre, for now, was working with the national human rights commission and the legal aid council to provide legal assistance in issues related to the aged.

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