The Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) says Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has woefully failed workers.

According to the ICU, Ghanaians have been given a raw deal as they are made to pay for health services they hardly can access.

General Secretary of the Union, Mr Solomon Kotei bemoaned the manner in which workers who are contributors to the scheme are compelled to fall on their employers for a bailout anytime they have challenges with their health.

“In the last three years, the health insurance system has actually broken down; today you report to the hospital and you are told this disease is not covered by NHIS and you have to walk out frustrated,” Mr Kotei stated.

The ICU boss expressed worry over the situation, noting that “if the Ghanaian worker is ill today, he or she has to fall on the employer for assistance, failing which he or she must go looking for hard earned money to save his or her life.”

Ghana’s health insurance system has been fraught with teething challenges as subscribers struggle for access to health services and as service providers also fight for payment of delayed claims.

It will be recalled that a 2012 World Bank Report on Health Financing in Ghana confirmed reports of teething challenges with the scheme.

The report stated that “health workforce ratios are low; health infrastructure, equipment, transport, and the health management information system (HMIS) are inadequate; drug procurement is inefficient and the performance of the central medical stores is poor; and financing, quality assurance, and logistics management are weak.”

The World Bank report also pointed to weak coordination by the various regulatory agencies which it said resulted in high drug prices and substandard drugs.

According to the ICU Boss, “every worker pays 2.5 per cent of his or her social security contributions into the National Health Insurance Levy which is virtually not working.”

“We have heard time without number the pleas from service providers that they had not been paid for services rendered; we have gotten to the point where you get to the hospital and you are told to go and search for one medication or another,” he noted.

Everything bought on the market which has Value Added Tax (VAT) on it has a component of the National Health Insurance Levy in it.

A labour consultant, who spoke to this paper stressed that “health is money; you need money to provide good health care; we also need to be in good health to be able to work more effectively and be more productive.”