No New Tax On Phone Calls To Finance Healthcare – FG
TECHDIGEST – Telephone subscribers will not be paying more for calls in Nigeria with the recent signing of the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari into law.
Contrary to reports, the federal government expunged the section imposing a new telecommunications tax to finance the new National Health Insurance Authority Act (NHIA).
President Buhari signed the health bill into law May 19, 2022 amidst public apprehension that telephone subscribers will be asked to pay more for calls to fund the NHIA.
Section 26(1c) of the Act which mandated the collection of “telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls” was expunged before the president appended his signature.
Telecom sector already over-taxed
But government, worried over the possibility of over-burdening subscribers with additional financial weight in a sector already deemed to be over-taxed, pack-pedalled and remove the section on telecom tax.
Pressure from telecom operators and other stakeholders also informed government’s decision. The sector is already debating hiking tariffs over inflationary cost of producing a minute of voice calls or a byte of data.
NHIA is broader cover for Universal Health Coverage
The NHIA repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme Act 2004 and offers a broader cover for Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage – a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) by 2030.
The NHIA is designed to bring affordable healthcare, social health insurance to majority of Nigerians poor and deemed to be within the Vulnerable Group. More than 83 million poor Nigerians are to be captured under this scheme.
According to the federal government, “For the large number of vulnerable individuals who are not able to pay health insurance premiums, a Vulnerable Group Fund will be set up to include a component of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund due to the Authority, Health Insurance Levy, Special Intervention Fund, and any investment proceeds, donations and gifts to the Authority.”
The expunged telecommunications tax was supposed to be part of the funding channels for the Vulnerable Group Fund created under the NHIA.