“There is nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset” – Arlen Specter.
Being an entrepreneur anywhere in the world is hard. It often entails seven-day workweeks, endless telephone conversations, and unending deadlines that must be met. You barely get enough time for yourself and your family when it is crunch time. The numbers must add up. The ventures must thrive. Value must be created. And so, you easily get caught in a continuum of uploads, downloads, meets, greets, and brainstorms.
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Now imagine being an entrepreneur in a city like Lagos. Yes, I just winched too. Lagos is the ultimate breeding ground of entrepreneurs with the x-factor. Largely because every day you are up against the most grueling conditions to deliver results.
An average Lagos entrepreneur is either dealing with notorious traffic gridlocks within the metropolis, natural and, sometimes, artificial scarcity of petrol and electricity, poor intra-city road infrastructure, soaring costs of services, and an erratic exchange rate. Yet, value must be created, regardless of the odds.
With so many elements seemingly well-synchronised to attenuate efficiency, it behooves one to ensure health care and its cost are not added to the worry list. Risk and its management are central to any investment appraisal. Risk is the ultimate determinant of the yield rate of any venture. So also is risk central in health. There will always be uncertainty, even with health, and only those who recognise, appreciate, and manage such risks earn top dollar.
I have never stopped wondering why many Nigerians undermine the cruciality of their health as their single most important asset. As exceptional as Steve Jobs was as an innovator and entrepreneur, his efficiency suffered a significant setback between 2003 and 2011, when he finally lost the battle against cancer. The truth is that besides the man-hours spent in transit to and from care centres, the psychological strain can be quite distressful.
Imagine Steve Jobs handing over his brainchild, Apple, to subordinates due to failing health. It must have crushed him. Luckily, Apple was built around a core of sound people and the company was able to successfully navigate through such a trying period. The point remains that you are only as effective as a businessman/woman as your health permits. It is therefore essential that the sanctity of good health remains in the consciousness of every high-flying and upwardly mobile entrepreneur.
Globally, as supported by a 2015 Deloitte report on health care outlook, there is a steady rise in the cost of accessing healthcare. Surprising? Certainly not! If you consider that the world is yet to fully overcome the aftershocks of the economic recession causing a slight dip in the net health-spends of many governments around the world, the figures become more comprehensible. Nigeria is in this same boat.
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The first lesson in Economics is the concept of scarcity. Scarcity determines supply, demand, and ultimately, price. An expanding population in the face of dwindling quality and quantity of health infrastructure translates to scarcity of healthcare. As this demand expectedly rises, the highest bidder will ultimately get access to better care. This is the bitter fact, deal with it!
So, is it doomsday for the rest of us? Certainly no! And here’s why.
You see, there is this thing called health insurance. It is a scheme that allows you save for the euphemistic rainy day even in the face of scarce resources. What it entails essentially is that a third party assumes the risk of your ill health in the future. But what if I never fall ill? That is on one hand. On the other hand, would you seriously want to find out?
Again, interestingly, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) estimated that as at 2014, only 5 million out of Nigeria’s 170 million people had health insurance coverage. Hold that thought for a bit.
Now, when you consider the annual population rate of 3%, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, it becomes apparent that the picture today is probably not any better than it was in 2014. Maybe worse. Also consider the deduction from a 2013 Accenture survey on insurance habits of consumers that one in every four persons was likely to opt-out of a life insurance plan in the next year.
Again, unsurprising. If I pay premiums for a whole year and I do not fall ill, gravely at least, I start to wonder if the policy is worth it at all. Right?
So you get a better understanding of why the coverage figures in this clime are still abysmal. It is even more worrying that the formal sector of the Nigerian economy accounts majorly for this minute coverage. There is virtually no coverage in the informal sector, where the bulk of Nigerians, including entrepreneurs, belong. The financing model of the NHIS entails split costs between employers and employees in the formal sector so it appears straightforward. How does this model work for self-employed folks with unpredictable income?
There are a number of forward-thinking health insurance organisations in Nigeria today that have developed bespoke health plans that are affordable. They help you the entrepreneur, manage the risks associated with health now and in the future. Imagine the financial outlay that an unplanned expense, such as for acute appendicitis, may incur. Or even for a sudden dental procedure such as extraction for dental caries.
These events are totally unpredictable and can occur as randomly on the way to lunch on a sunny Tuesday afternoon as on your bed in the middle of the night. If for some reason, the funds are not readily available at the time of the incident, the line between long-term debility and sometimes, even death, may be quite thin. It, therefore, helps to have a contingency plan in place.
It is funny how many entrepreneurs are quick to insure assets like their stock, workspaces, vehicles, and equipment, yet they overlook possibly the most critical of the lot – their health. Believe it or not, the aforementioned may often or are highly likely to be replaceable, even if at enormous costs. Health, however, is almost never replaceable. It can go south pretty quickly. In such an eventuality, you do a disservice not only to yourself as an entrepreneur and value creator but to every stakeholder in your value chain.
Think about it.
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Photo Credits – Dr Vincent Nwani