Nowadays, the average life expectancy in Ghana is 64 years for women and 57 for men (2010), one of the highest of Africa. This can be explained by a health care system that has been improved and supported a lot by the government in recent years.
Since 2003, a new scheme has been voted and passed into law, in order to abolish the former “cash and carry system” regarding local health services. There is a public healthcare system in the style of universal coverage in Ghana. The system is improving and has been held up as an example for emerging countries. However, this system is still insufficient as the national and public scheme covers an average of only 18% of the total population.
The public insurance system in Ghana is the NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme). This insurance is financed partly by the government, partly by Ghanaian workers. The workers give 2.5% of their social security contributions to the insurance fund and 2.5% of the VAT also goes into the fund.
District mutual health insurance
The NHIS offers two main possibilities in terms of insurance. First of all, you can get a district mutual health insurance, which is officially issued by the NHIS and financed by the government. This is open to any person residing in Ghana (including low income individuals, unemployed people and people who can not afford insurance premiums). You will get this coverage regardless of your situation, 6 months after your registration.
This insurance is organised and overseen by individual districts. In order to benefit from it, you will have to register at your district office, (located in the district assembly of your area). You will need to fill in a document for yourself and provide at least two passport photos. You will also need to apply on behalf of your children if they are under 18 years old.
It is free to register, and covers everyone for an initial 5 years. You will get a personal card which you will need to bring to any medical appointment in order to be covered.
This scheme is quite basic, and covers conditions, such as malaria, diarrhoea, asthma, hypertension, upper respiratory tract infections, skin diseases and diabetes. These make up 95% of reported diseases in Ghana. This option, however, does not include any support for antiretroviral drugs for HIV, or others tests such as echocardiography, organ transplants, dialysis, angiography, or mortuary services.
You should be able, with this insurance, to get treated in public facilities for free. It is the responsibility of the hospitals and clinics to get the money back from the insurance scheme.
However, it has been said that some medical facilities have refused to treat patients because the insurance never refunds the treatments costs.
Private mutual insurance scheme
The other possibility under NHIS is the private mutual insurance scheme, which allows a group of people to subscribe together to an insurance in order to cater for their health needs. This option generally deals with companies and their workers.
This type of coverage is provided by private insurers who charge companies according to the number of workers in the scheme. This option is not entitled to subsidies from the National Health Insurance Fund.