WellaHealth: Affordable health coverage throughout Nigeria

WellaHealth is providing affordable and accessible health insurance plan for common illnesses leveraging pharmacies as point of care.

The challenge

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 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 their 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 in the event of a catastrophic health event.

The approach

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 USD1.50 monthly plan, cashback of up to USD220 to offset hospital bills.

Through the integration of other fintech partners’ solutions into the WellaHealth platform, users also have access to a suite of financing solutions, including a free health savings wallet and instant point-of-care credit set on the basis of AI-powered creditworthiness scoring. In addition to quality professional care, WellaHealth’s value proposition includes protection against common health shocks, convenience (through the combination of automated financial services at the point-of-care and one easy-to-use mobile phone interface), inclusive finance (users can choose the best financing tool given their situation, including credit, savings or insurance), accessibility through local pharmacies, affordable pricing and no need to carry cash for unplanned expenses.

Impact achieved so far?

WellaHealth launched its first micro-insurance product, for malaria treatment, in mid-2019, and had sold 1 000 plans by the end of that year. In 2020 it added other minor healthcare conditions to the micro-insurance package and introduced the cashback solution for hospitalisation.

At the end of 2020 WellaHealth started moving away from its direct-to-consumer sales model toward partnering with Airtel and Standard Bank Nigeria, which will distribute the product to their customer bases. As of the end of 2020, it had sold 3 000 plans and paid out 800 claims.

Use of Swiss Re Foundation funds

The award money would underpin WellaHealth’s growth strategy by funding product development and distribution via mobile money agents with upfront investments in supporting, training, equipping and financing the agents. Part of the grant would be used to accelerate the technology build-out for a crowdfunding product slated for launch in 2021.

​Making healthcare financially accessible to low-income communities

Making healthcare financially accessible to low-income communities