Home Health & Food New telephone calls tax necessary, it could help provide free healthcare to vulnerable Nigerians –Expert

New telephone calls tax necessary, it could help provide free healthcare to vulnerable Nigerians –Expert

by James Davies

Amarachi Okeh

A former Chairman of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Dr. Tunji Akintade has hailed the new telephone calls tax, noting that it could help provide free health care for the Vulnerable Nigerians.

According to Akintade, the new tax regime is an ‘excellent and brilliant plan’ that would see that the vulnerable – persons living with disability, the aged, the under-five – who are unable to access health care have access to free health care.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an interview, Akintade stated that taxing the telcos was part of the necessary steps needed to sustain the funding pool for health insurance services as well as cater to the healthcare needs of the teeming population.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) had this past week assented to the taxing of telcos to fund health insurance for the vulnerable persons in the country by signing the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021.

The bill includes an act under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that the source of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

Explaining this new law, The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said, “S.26 of this new law imposes a telecommunications tax of not less than 1kobo per second on GSM calls. With call rates at about 11kobo per second, this translates to a 9 per cent tax on GSM calls.

“The tax is one of the sources of money to the Vulnerable Group Fund to subsidise the provision of healthcare to the group defined to include children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.”

According to the act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.

Speaking on how the funds can be deployed to effectively cater to people who fall within the vulnerable category, Akintade said such persons need to register with the National Population Scheme so they would be known and taken care of as this is a National bill not executed by the state.

Akintade also urged Nigerians not to abuse the health insurance initiative as it is targeted at vulnerable persons who are unable to afford health care.

He said, “It is the responsibility of the government to provide health services. One thing is to provide the health services another thing is to be able to afford the health services.

“You don’t want a country where everybody will be a vulnerable person, it is not correct. There are a lot of physically challenged people that can pay for their health because they have the funding, so people have to be honest.

“What is causing depletion in funding is when people are not honest – when you can afford and you are saying you cannot afford. So, if you have been empowered to a certain extent, you don’t need public funding, then you can afford to pay for it your healthcare.”

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