Edo State residents applaud the state government’s initiative of ensuring senior citizens enjoy free healthcare, as state pensioners march en mass to the various centres designated by the Edo State Health Insurance Commission (EDOHIC) for the free health insurance scheme enrollment exercise.

The exercise, which commenced on Monday, January 15 through to Friday, January 19, 2024, witnessed a large turnout of state pensioners across the state for the enrollment and data validation exercise.

Several of the pensioners were full of praise for Governor Godwin Obaseki for enrolling them into the free healthcare insurance scheme (Edo Health Insurance Scheme – EDOHIS), commending the state government for fulfilling its commitment to social welfare while ensuring its senior citizens lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

The selected venues for the exercise across the state’s three senatorial districts were lauded by the pensioners as thoughtful and befitting for senior citizens, as provisions were made for light refreshments and medical emergencies.

Mrs. Obaseki Kehinde Catherine, a retired nurse from the Hospital Management Board (HMB), appreciated the organizers of the exercise for the seamless, peaceful, stress-less, and successful process of the enrollment and data validation procedures, as well as the venue’s conducive environment.

A pensioner from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Festus Ibhagbe, commended the state government for the free health insurance initiative and the efforts put together by the organizers to make the entire process easy and swift.

In an interview with the Nigerian Observer, the Director of Public Relations, Advocacy and Communication, EDOHIC, Mrs. Omonigho Trinitas, emphasized the need for pensioners in the state to utilize the ongoing exercise to enroll for the free health insurance scheme to begin enjoying the state’s healthcare benefits.

Mrs. Trinitas said, “We want to ensure that we use this short period to get as many of the state pensioners as we can so that we reduce out-of-pocket spending for them. This is because the longer we keep putting on hold the exercise the more they are paying heavily from their pockets in the hospital. That is why we thought to gather them at once, enroll them, allocate facilities to them, and let them start enjoying the services on the scheme and we decided to pick a central location.”

According to Mrs Trinitas, the free health insurance scheme covers primary, secondary, and tertiary services, ranging from surgeries to normal wound treatment, wound cleaning, malaria, typhoid, malaria treatment, typhoid treatment, laboratory tests and scans. Considering the age group of these pensioners, age-related illnesses are part of the focus for their health benefits.

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“They just need to pay 10 percent for investigations which are tests and medications. However, not all surgeries are covered fully; those require a co-payment, while some life-threatening and terminal surgeries are covered such as Caesarian Operation (CS),” she said.

For pensioners who were enrolled while in active service in the state, the commission stated plans to terminate the previous registration before transferring such from in-service enrollees to pensioner-enrollees to avoid paying capitations for their dependents, which is spouse and four children under 18.

“For pensioners, it covers only the pensioner. It would be excess boarding on the health insurance scheme to cover dependents at this early stage. If after some time we run with this and see that we can take in more, we’ll do that. So for a pensioner, on average, we expect that while they were in service as a principal, their spouse and three children less than 18 years were covered. So from the natural calculation, when they are out of service, those four children, will likely not be less than 18 years old anymore. So we’ll transfer the pensioners to the pensioner plan, so we know that it’s just for them,” Mrs. Trinitas explained.

The exercise, conducted across the three senatorial districts was held at Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub, Nigerian Observer Newspaper compound, Airport Road, Benin City, the state’s capital for the Edo South Senatorial District.

The Edo Central Senatorial District held at Cordelia Agbegbaku Complex, Ambrose Alli University-Main Campus, Ekpoma.

The Edo North Senatorial District took place at Etsako West Local Government Council Hall, Auchi, Edo State

According to records from the commission, there are 11,168 Edo State government pensioners, excluding the local government pensioners. As of the time of filling the report, 3,458 of the state pensioners in Edo South had already been enrolled.

In December 2023, Governor Obaseki made the declaration about the provision of N1 billion to cover the free health insurance service for the pensioners and vigilantes of the state, in commitment to ensuring affordable and quality healthcare services while mitigating the out-of-pocket spending for the beneficiaries of the free health insurance scheme, promoting a healthier and more secure future.

According to officials of the EDOHIS, the exercise conducted was to attend to only the state pensioners as the exercise for local government pensioners will be announced at a later date. Also, pensioners who missed out on the chance to enroll during the exercise are advised to visit the designated offices across the state to carry out the enrollment and data validation at their convenience.