What is health insurance and why is it important?


Maria was spending her two-week leave with Kike, her long-time friend. They were demolishing a bowl of ice-cream when Kike’s tooth ache flared up. She had been putting off the visit but this time the pain was so much that she had scheduled an appointment with the dentist, and the next morning, off they went. This clinic was different from what Maria was used to in hospital settings. Clean white walls, beautiful art frames, and potted plants. She felt like a child on excursion.

A while later, a nurse gave a talk on teeth care and oral hygiene. At the end of his health talk, he introduced a young lady, who wanted to talk to them about health insurance. She looked very pretty with her peach top matching her earrings, and her hair packed into a neat bun.

“Ugggh!” Kike sighed. “Those health insurance people that just want to collect people’s money for nothing. No thank you. I’m not interested. Any lady in peach and high heels is definitely after your money.”

“Which theory is that one again?” Maria said laughing. “At least hear her out first joor,” she said, as the lady began to address them.

“Good day ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk to us about what health insurance is, and why we all need it. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it simple, short, and sweet,” she said in a slightly high-pitched voice.

“To begin, I’ll like to tell you the parable of the eggs. Once upon a time, there were thirty fresh eggs in a crate, and they all believed they would remain that way till they were bought. Days turned into weeks, and as they sat there waiting, it dawned on them that one or more of them could get spoilt. So they had a meeting with the storekeeper who said that it was actually possible for all of them to get spoilt but from her experience, two or three eggs often got affected in the four weeks before they were bought. Also, every egg that got spoilt had to pay the sum of fifty naira to mitigate the loss. There was just one challenge: there was no way of knowing which of them would get spoilt. It was all time and chance.

The parable of eggs explains what health insurance is, as risk is shared among all the eggs

So the eggs came up with a plan to share the risk among themselves. Each egg would pay one naira per week, such that by the end of four weeks, each egg would have contributed four naira. If all the thirty eggs contributed as agreed, they would have a total of N120 in the common purse. That way, if three eggs got spoilt, instead of them paying N150, they would only need to pay N10 each to make up the balance of N30. In short, a spoilt egg would pay a total of N14 for something that should have been N50, because the risk was shared.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a picture of what health insurance is. A group of people with a similar risk of getting ill or needing any form of health service come are brought together, and on a regular basis, they pay a little amount into a common purse or pool, called a premium. The payment can be made monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

No one knows who will eventually get sick but the good news is that whenever anyone is sick, that person won’t have to pay the full health bills all alone. Health made easy!” she said with a smile.

Maria turned to look at Kike who was listening attentively. So much for not being interested. She smiled as the lady in peach continued speaking.

“So to summarize, I’ll state three important benefits of having health insurance.

  1. Health insurance reduces the amount of money that an individual or family has to pay in order to access health care because the costs are shared among many people.

Let’s face it, health care is expensive and rightfully so. There’s a lot that goes into it: research, production of drugs and equipment, importation, training, licenses, the list goes on. So if each person had to pay for all these from his/her own pocket, the amount would be enormous.

2. Health insurance reduces the ‘shock’ on your finances, especially in cases of emergencies.

We can all agree that it is easier to pay N1, 000 every month than to pay N300, 000 unexpectedly, at once. Some folks have experienced health emergencies that wiped out their entire life savings and plunged them into debt that they struggle to pay up. We all pray and expect to be healthy but unexpected things can happen.

3. Health insurance allows you to seek health care early when you need it because you are not afraid of the cost.

Early diagnosis and treatment are better for your health than harbouring an ailment for a long time. I’m sure you’ve seen people that have a health issue, for example, swelling on one part of their body, that’s been there for many months or years, but they ignore it because they are already poor, and are afraid of the cost of tests and treatment. They resort to all sorts of concoctions and by the next time you see them, it’s complicated and difficult to treat.

Once we understand that health insurance is more of savings than expense, it’s easy to enrol, and avoid stories that touch. Does anyone have any questions so far?”

Someone’s hand shot up. “These benefits of health insurance are great but what if nothing ever happens to me? What if I never get sick?” he queried.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

“I think the question you should ask is what if something happens? We can’t bury our heads in the sand hoping nothing will happen. We must weigh the risks and act wisely. But to answer your question, like those eggs in the parable, I think it’s better to pay four naira knowing that if you don’t use it, it is helping someone else than to pay fifty naira all alone because you don’t want to share. What do you think?”

“Hmmmm. You’re correct ma’am! Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. So, in the absence of any other question, I’ll be taking my leave. You can see me if you want to discuss available options. Thank you for your time!”

A resounding applause followed as people went over to meet the lady in peach. And guess who was first on the queue? Kike!

“What happened Kike?” Maria teased as she came back to her seat. “I thought the lady in peach and high heels was after your money.”

“Ummmh. I think it’s only peach and red heels. Hers is blue. So she is different.” Kike remarked.

Maria laughed so hard that her tummy hurt.

“So you were just forming that you weren’t interested.”

“No. I wasn’t interested initially but she made too much sense. She is the definition of beauty and brains! No one has ever explained health insurance to me this way before. Whenever I see a crate of eggs now, all I’ll be able to think of are the benefits of health insurance. I’m definitely enrolling.”

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14 thoughts on “What is health insurance and why is it important?”

  1. Sandra Dozie-Anyanwu

    This gets a five-star rating and lots of shares from me. It may seems a small thing, but Dr., you are doing an amazing job here educating me on these issues. Thank you, ma.

    1. Dr. Mercy Folayan

      Thanks for this great feedback. I’m glad to know that it’s helping you. And thanks for the shares too. Gracias!

  2. Great sense in all explanation put together in a story form to bring our attention and interest. Its quite educative.
    Well done

  3. This is so explanatory and was to comprehend. Well done ma’am. Are you on twitter by the way? Your storied approach will educate a lot on that bird app.

    1. Dr. Mercy Folayan

      Thank you ma’am!
      Yes, I am on twitter. I’ve been in hibernation mode though an hope to kick back soon.
      Thank you once again.

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