In Nigeria, the underfunded public health system leads many patients to seek care in private facilities, which are typically more expensive than they can afford. At more than USD 5 per month, the cost of health insurance coverage is also high given the average monthly minimum wage of USD 66. Traditional insurance has an overall penetration of less than 10%, enjoyed mostly by people with formal employment.

All this translates into high out-of-pocket healthcare costs for Nigerians, 25% of whom suffer from malaria in any given year. In 2016 these costs totalled USD 7.7 billion in 2016, of which USD 3 billion was spent on minor illnesses. Since most Nigerians, especially in lower-income households, have no insurance coverage, they often choose to self-medicate or wait for illness to get worse before seeking care. This, in turn, can lead to even greater financial shocks — self-medication for malaria typically costs USD 15-20 — and a higher likelihood of medical complications or even death later on. In fact, more than 50% of Nigerian families are at risk of impoverishment after a catastrophic health event.

Targeting Nigeria’s general population, WellaHealth, provides micro-insurance for fees starting at USD 1 per month. The insurance covers common illnesses such as malaria, upper respiratory tract infections and viral infections – including drugs to treat them – via point-of-care testing at the 1200 local pharmacies in WellaHealth’s network. Patients have no need of cash at the point of care, and claims are settled instantly. Plan users also have access to telemedicine consultations, chronic disease screening, drug discounts and, under the USD 1.50 monthly plan, cashback of up to USD 220 to offset hospital bills.

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