Wednesday, April 17, 2013

‘Insurance can boost healthcare in Africa’

The insurance industry can greatly help in improving healthcare delivery in a country by designing health insurance schemes for increasing accessibility and affordability of medical services to the people.

President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma [Source: Salone Reporter]
The president of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, presenting on the topic ‘The West Africa said health insurance schemes are built upon the time honored principle of the insurance industry for pooling resources together to avert the consequences of life's contingencies on people.
Insurance Industry: The Challenges and Opportunities in the Light of Recent Economic and Socio-Political Developments’

“Our profession (the insurance profession) has often discriminated against ordinary people when it comes to health insurance schemes,” the Sierra Leonean president said while presenting his paper at the 35th Annual General Meeting and Educational Conference of the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA) which started on Monday.

“Rather, we (insurance practitioners) put great emphases on targeting those who could pay the high premiums,” he added.

The Sierra Leonean president, himself an erudite insurance practitioner, said if the insurance profession should be at the centre of the new economy of growth, inclusion and protection, the practitioners must be transcended this mentality.

He said the insurance practitioners must seek out the various options for including the struggling worker, trader and ordinary citizen in national health insurance schemes.

“A new mentality must be capable of envisaging citizens and consumers paying for medical services through regular deposits of small amounts of money,” President Koroma said.  “We can do it; our insurance industry can be at the centre of a healthcare revolution in our countries.”

Critical areas where insurance industry is pivotal in the economics of growth, inclusion and protection relate to micro-finance, housing, health, and social security schemes.

President Koroma noted that so many people in West Africa are small farmers and traders who find it difficult to access capital and services for growth.

“Micro-insurance is the tool of micro-finance,” he said. “It is developed to alleviate poor families and low-income people from specific perils.”

Though provided by a variety of different entities, micro-insurance is run in accordance with generally accepted insurance principles and practices and its products, coverage, premiums and services are designed with low income persons and families in mind.

However, Dr Koroma pointed out that in the West African sub region, micro-insurance activities are almost non-existent.

It is in cognizance of this that in November 2008, WAICA held an educational conference in Nigeria on the theme: "Micro-Insurance: Its Role and Impact in the Economies of Emerging Markets in West Africa".

At that conference, it was resolved among others that the West African insurance market should use micro-insurance as a vehicle for insurance penetration.

The Sierra Leonean president said the WAICA initiative in 2008 is yet to pay dividend.

“This is why it is very imperative for the insurance industry as a whole must assess its relationship with the mass market, and make a call for a ‘back to basics’ campaign of the industry so as to protect vulnerable people through the solidarity of risk pooling.”

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