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How Does Health Insurance Work In Nigeria For Expats

How Does Health Insurance Work In Nigeria For Expats?

Lee Doran

Underwriting Manager

Are you an expat or digital nomad planning to relocate to Nigeria? As Africa’s most populated country and largest (and fast-growing) economy, Nigeria is an exciting place to move as an expat. Get stuck in to any one of the country’s emerging sectors, from mining and construction to telecommunications, while enjoying the tropical climate, incredible landscapes and vast wildlife reserves waiting to be discovered.

Before you go though, don’t forget to think about healthcare in Nigeria. Whether you’re still in the planning phase or have made the move already, we can help you find international health insurance that’s right for you.

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How does health insurance work in Nigeria?

Quality healthcare in Nigeria is limited, and many diseases that are rarely seen in the developed world still cause deaths in Nigeria including cholera, tetanus and polio, malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.

Though Nigeria does have a universal National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), few hospitals offer the quality of facilities, equipment and trained medical professionals you might expect in the western world.

It is recommended for expats moving to Nigeria to consider taking out private international health insurance, to cover their everyday medical needs while staying in the country, including cover for expatriation to countries with better medical facilities for more serious health issues, such as life and limb threatening conditions.

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How is the healthcare system paid for?

Though the country has a universal healthcare system, public healthcare in Nigeria is severely underfunded, with the Nigerian government only putting around 3% of the country’s GDP toward healthcare facilities, medication, research and training. This is compared to the average 9.7% dedicated to healthcare by other countries worldwide.

It’s important to understand how the universal healthcare system in Nigeria works and how it’s funded before moving to the country, to help you decide wither or not to invest in private healthcare for you and your family.

Is healthcare paid for in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s government funded universal health system, the NHIS, was established in 1999 to provide accessible healthcare to all Nigerian citizens. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding put toward healthcare in Nigeria each year, the national system has limited resources and is often unable to provide a sufficient healthcare even for minor conditions.

Who funds healthcare in Nigeria?

Healthcare in Nigeria is funded by government budgetary allocation using general tax revenue and supported by donor funding, a social insurance scheme known as the Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP) and private funding.

The FSSHIP works by pooling contributions from employees and employers, amounting to 1.75% and 3.5% respectively of the employee’s consolidated salary. The Formal Sector includes any public sector or organised private sector business employing 10 or more people, the armed forces, police and other uniformed services. Students in full-time tertiary education are also paid for. Contributions cover health care benefits for the employee, a spouse and up to four biological children under the age of 18.

How much does NHIS cost in Nigeria?

If you are not eligible for the NHIS through your employer or educational institution, it is possible to become a voluntary member of the programme at personal cost. You can do this through the NHIS website.

It costs around US$35 to register as a voluntary contributor to social health insurance in Nigeria, plus US$23 per person you wish to cover. This fee will automatically renew every year.

Are hospitals free in Nigeria?

General hospitals and emergency services are free in Nigeria for anyone covered under NHIS. Be aware that NHIS will give you the standard level of medical care, which may be below the standards of your home country.

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What do expats need to know about healthcare in Nigeria?

Being Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria has the second highest density of medical doctors in West Africa . However, this number is still very low in context (just 3.8 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants) and medical services often fail to meet public demand.

Because of this, many Nigerians and expats in Nigeria have to pay for medicine and treatments out of their own pocket, which can be expensive. In 2019 , on average, healthcare made up 6% of household spending – higher in rural areas than in cities.

However even if you are able to access healthcare in Nigeria, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the treatment or medicines you need. The quality of healthcare in Nigeria is poor for a number of reasons. These include: lack of government funding, poor pay for doctor and nurses (the best of whom will seek employment in other countries), and regular strikes from healthcare professionals wanting better pay and investment in the sector.

As a result, hospitals in Nigeria are often overcrowded and unhygienic, leading to infectious diseases spreading freely, with many Nigerians dying from diseases they contracted while in hospital.

As an expat living and working in Nigeria, it is highly recommended to invest in private international health insurance, allowing you to access better quality care or be transferred to a different country with better medical facilities for more serious health issues, such as life and limb threatening conditions.

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Private healthcare in Nigeria – is it better?

While private healthcare in Nigeria is definitely a step up from under resourced public services, the overall quality of treatment in a private hospital or clinic is still nowhere near the standard you might expect from a developed country.

That said, having private medical cover will mean that you don’t need to worry about the excessive costs of emergency medical services or access to routine medications – which might otherwise be hard to source. A good international health insurance policy will also ensure that you can be evacuated for medical treatment abroad for more serious health issues, such as life and limb threatening conditions.

What percentage of Nigerians have health insurance?

Despite having a national health insurance scheme, only around 4% of the Nigerian population have formal health insurance. This is because NHIS is only easily available to those in full time employment in public service roles, where employees make a contribution to the healthcare scheme.

With unemployment sitting around 25% and many Nigerians making a living in the informal sector (in agriculture or manual labour, for example) this makes healthcare widely inaccessible.

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How to get the best healthcare in Nigeria as an expat

Expats in Nigeria typically consider getting an international health insurance and use private clinics and hospitals if they can.

Expats should also be aware that payment for healthcare in Nigeria is usually expected immediately and can quickly add up in an emergency situation. This means that you’ll need to be able to cover the cost of medical care yourself, before applying to be reimbursed by your insurer.

How much does international health insurance for expats cost in Nigeria?

The price of international health insurance will vary depending on your needs, medical history, destination(s) and the number of people you want to cover.

At William Russell we offer four international health insurance plans you can personalise: Bronze, SilverLite, Silver and Gold, plus optional add-ons for anything more personal to you and your family. Explore our health insurance packages and get a free quote here.

Advice for expats moving to Nigeria

  1. Moving to any new country can be a culture shock. But Nigeria can be particularly challenging for British expats due to its tropical climate, crowded cities and areas of poverty.
  2. Before moving to Nigeria, it can be helpful read up on the country’s customs and culture to help you settle in and minimise the effects of culture shock while you get settled in. It’s also important to know about cost of living, and the processes involved with getting jobs and visas, and of course, health insurance.
  3. There are a growing number of close expat communities in Nigeria. Getting in touch with one via Facebook or an online community forum could be a useful way to make some initial connections and find out a bit more about life on the ground.

Play it safe with international health insurance

A good international health insurance plan will give you the peace of mind that you can get the medical care you need in any situation.

For 30 years, we have helped expats like you move and settle into their new lives overseas, with the assurance that their families are covered by a comprehensive and flexible health insurance policy.

Speak to us today to find out more about how international health insurance could give you and your family the best possible healthcare in Nigeria.

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