MPs spare employers more NHIF burden

NHIF headquarters, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]


Employers can sigh with relief after the National Assembly failed to adopt an additional burden of statutory deductions that could have seen them seen match workers’ monthly contributions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). The plan was to have the workers continue paying same amounts and employers matching in a structure modelled on the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

The lawmakers argued that the move would take away the intentions of universal health coverage (UHC) that is being spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2021 sponsored by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya proposes to make it mandatory for employers to make a match the employees contribute to the fund.

Recently Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) argued that if the Bill is passed, they may be forced to lay off workers to make ends meet amidst dwindling resources that have characterised their businesses since the Covid-19 outbreak.

FKE said that a number of employers provide medical insurance for their employees and thus they would end up paying medical insurance twice. The Departmental Committee on Health has however proposed a middle ground to this proposal.

Central Organisation of Trade Union Secretary General Francis Atwoli said the proposed amendments should be shelved and UHC executed through a body managed and constituted outside the management structure of NHIF. MPs yesterday debated some proposed amendments to the health laws that would see a major transformation of healthcare in the country. The amendments were yesterday passed at the committee of the whole House.  

There were 28 amendment clauses by different lawmakers. Key among them was the provisional clauses outlining that adults are mandated to make an annual compulsory contribution of Sh6,000 to NHIF. The interest to amend the health law has been drawn from the Departmental Committee on Health chaired by Sabina Chege, the Leader of the Majority and other legislators.

Deputy President William Ruto had also appealed to Members of Parliament to pass the Bill. 

“This is a historic day; all MPs should step forward and pass the Bill which is already four years behind schedule,” he said.

“It will cushion Kenyans against the burden of medical bills. Many Kenyans who have been impoverished by hospital bills. Today, we have a reason to have a brighter future,” he added

Adults will now be mandated to pay Sh500 monthly in a remodelled UHC scheme for outpatient and inpatient services, including maternity, dialysis, cancer treatment and surgery. Currently, the contribution to the Fund is voluntary and capped at Sh500 per month for those in informal employment while those in formal employment are deducted based on their salaries.

The Bill among other things sought to cap the amount payable for treatment of chronic ailments like dialysis, cancer, heart and liver failure.

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