June 13, 2024
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Imposing ‘sin tax’, scrapping taxes on consumables, funding NHIS would ease dialysis patients’ hefty financial burden – NHIA CEO proposes

National Health Insurance Authority CEO Bernard Okoe-Boye has suggested four ways to save kidney failure patients from paying hefty amounts for dialysis treatment.

Dr Okoe-Boye said “very boldly” that “we can”, as a country, cater to kidney patients at a reduced cost to them, “if we are committed to paying totally for kidney care”. 

Speaking on the recent 100 per cent increase — from GHS380 to GHS765 — in the cost of dialysis by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, which has sparked an intense public discourse on the treatment of kidney failure patients, Dr. Okoe-Boye proposed “three things we can do”, as a country, to mitigate the financial burden shouldered by patients undergoing treatment.

First of all, he noted, “Politically we’ve been going back and forth on funding with NHIS so we don’t have to go directly to politicians for money”.

In his view, adequate funding of the scheme would help the situation in a substantial way.

“Number two: We can put some levy — what is referred to as sin tax — on some one or two products, which are, normally, not consumed by the ordinary person but by people in a particular class, and the inflows from that levy can go into a fund, not necessarily with the National Health Insurance”. 

“It can be the chronic disease fund or the peripheral disease fund, which will go to the department that takes care of kidney and other cardio diseases”, he suggested. 

“It will enable Korle Bu to heavily subsidise, again”, Dr Okoe-Boye said.

Thirdly, he said, “We, as a country, can come together; quickly take away either all the taxes on any item that goes into kidney care, or we can look at two or three consumables which affect the pricing, and the state can procure it directly”.

“So, we have a duty, as a country, to find ways to beat down the cost of dialysis, either to zero or about 20%”, Dr Okoe-Boye said. 

Lastly, he suggested, “We can still register those who are indigenes who cannot afford some GH¢20, give them special cards and the state can reimburse them from health insurance”, insisting in a Citi TV interview: “It can be done”.

Dr. Okoe-Boye’s proposals come a few days after dialysis expert Grace Ayensu-Danquah called on the government to remove taxes on the consumables imported for kidney failure treatment as well as the covering of the treatment under the NHIS.

Speaking to Accra News’ Kaakyire Badu on Wednesday, 27 September 2023, Dr Ayensu-Danquah, who runs Sage Medical Centre, a private specialist hospital that provides dialysis services at East Legon, Accra, said, that without the procedure being covered by the NHIS, patients and their families would continue to be burdened.

She explained that the GHS380 currently charged by Korle Bu per session is just half of the actual price because an NGO picks half of the bill for patients.

Another reason for the high cost of dialysis, she added, is the cost of the equipment and consumables, which, she indicated, are not produced here in Africa and, thus, have to be imported at the prevailing cedi-dollar rate.

“The problem is that the machines are expensive. The consumables are also not produced in Ghana and Africa. They are imported from outside. That’s why dialysis is so expensive,” she emphasised.

“The other issue is that the NHIS does not cover dialysis. NHIS CEO Dr. Okoe-Boye and his administration must ensure that dialysis patients are covered, with, perhaps, a fractional co-pay by the patients because that is the only way,” she proposed.

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