Sarafa Ibrahim writes that Governor Ademola Adeleke has launched a comprehensive health care programme for the 23,000 strong pensioners in the State of the Living Spring.
on Wednesday, something unprecedented happened in Osun state. Governor Ademola Adeleke flagged off the enrollment of the entire retirees in the state on the health insurance scheme. By this, no fewer than 23,000 pensioners in Osun state will be covered by a universal healthcare plan.
It was unusual, and expectedly, provoked an intriguing question on the bearing of the gesture on pensioners in Osun state.
Of course, something that has never happened before will definitely attract curiosity, but the good thing here is that the essence of the intervention is as clear as day.
If you don’t get it, I will simply draw your attention to the words of the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Osun state chapter, Pa Salau Ganiyu, at the flag-off ceremony.
The octogenarian who was apparently moved by Governor Adeleke’s interest in the well-being of retirees, said the healthcare coverage for pensioners is a necessity that far outweighs the value of money.
“This very program, particularly enrollment into OHIS, we appreciate it more than giving us money. It will save a lot of our members from untimely deaths,” he noted.
And he was damn right. At the age of most of the retirees, it is expected that their years of service will have weighed on their health, leaving them with one form of health challenge or the other to contend with. Managing these health challenges usually comes at a huge cost to pensioners, with many finding it extremely hard to handle.
It is this prevailing reality that often leads to untimely death, and in some cases, makes pensioners go through avoidable pains.
It is an experience that no one should be allowed to go through, not to talk of people who gave their most active years to the service of the state. This was an experience that Governor Adeleke is not prepared to let continue as the enrollment of pensioners on the health insurance scheme will ensure that they can enjoy access to quality healthcare without hindrance. The plan will allow retirees who are already stretched due to their low income to be able to get needed medical help and avert untimely deaths among them as was the case before now.
To put it in proper perspective, the healthcare plan for pensioners in Osun will save lives. Before now, pensioners were faced with a serious trouble of funding their healthcare bills. This made them vulnerable and put them under a lot of pressure, which makes retirement a tough experience for many pensioners.
But that experience is about to change for the better. Governor Adeleke made this quite obvious in his speech at the flag-off ceremony, explaining that the gesture was a way to “meet our senior citizens at the point of their needs.” The healthcare plan will adequately answer the health needs of pensioners and make sure that they are cared for in old age.
Let us pause a bit and be frank with ourselves. Pensioners are a critical part of our society given their past sacrifices and contributions. However, the attention given to their well-being over the years has been disturbing as it falls short of recognizing their service to the progress of the state.
Take, for example, the issue of their pensions and gratuities, which though, are deservedly earned, but treated with levity by the past administration. By the time Governor Adeleke assumed office, the pension liabilities incurred by the past administration stood at over N50 billion. This left many retirees in a terrible situation, with many finding it hard to cope with the attendant financial pressure.
In less than a year in office, Governor Adeleke is decisively changing the narrative by prioritizing their welfare. Between November 27 and now, Governor Adeleke has paid over N17 billion in pensions and gratuities.
A healthcare plan for pensioners is a continuation of the Governor’s effort to improve their conditions.
“Our administration conducted a situational review of the living conditions of our pensioners,” Governor Adeleke noted in his speech, adding that “We discover that the critical problem is not just unpaid pensions. Even when paid regularly, the bulk of the fund goes into managing health challenges. Our report concluded that almost 80 percent of pensioners’ problems centers around health questions.”
Thanks to the healthcare coverage by Governor Adeleke, pensioners’ questions on health challenges will now be adequately answered. All the 23,000 pensioners in Osun state will enjoy good healthcare upon presenting their OHIS cards at certified hospitals or health centers anywhere in Osun state. Even more, pensioners who are outside the state can as well access healthcare as long as it is within Nigeria, while the cost of their medicare is paid for by the provider.
Mind you, not only medical bills are covered by the healthcare plan of Governor Adeleke, but also the cost of drugs in certified pharmacies. Is this great?
This is what pensioners in Osun will be enjoying going forward. And you know what; Osun is the first state in the whole of Nigeria to do this– a clear demonstration of Governor Adeleke to improve the conditions of the people of Osun state, which in this instance, are our senior citizens.
-Ibrahim is Special Assistant to Osun State Governor on Print Media.