Panel of experts picked to reform sick NHIF to present findings next week

A task force to guide the overhaul of National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) that collects more than Sh40 billion per year will next week deliver its report to the Ministry of Health.

The 21-member panel of experts from public and private sector is expected to propose draft bills and Sessional Paper proposals that will have the NHIF transformed as the driver of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki appointed the experts on February 26 to reform the fund following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive during the launch of the UHC pilot in Kisumu.

Uhuru had ordered for reforms at NHIF and the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA). The fund has 6.5 million clients and 24 million beneficiaries.

Key driver

The independent experts team chaired by James Wambugu, former UAP Holdings Managing Director, was set to review the current NHIF Act to determine the level of its utility in transforming the fund into a key driver of provision of health to all Kenyans and make appropriate recommendations.

The team was tasked to engage stakeholders to prepare an Action Plan complete with a roadmap and timelines, the milestones, anticipated outcomes, risk mitigation plans, and related financial and other resource estimates.

“Provide recommendations on the available related business process, re-engineering reports towards increasing business efficiency and effectiveness at all levels across the organisation; and propose such other recommendations related to redesigning, reorganising and re-engineering of all existing business processes,” read part of the mandate.

At the end of the 90-day period, the experts will provide detailed analysis of viable and feasible financial models that will see NHIF fund UHC.

“The identification and inauguration of an independent expert panel is a key intervention and a step towards the transformation of NHIF to a more efficient, socially accountable and transparent body,” the CS said during the unveiling of the team.

NHIF was started as a department in the Ministry of Health in 1966 before it was transformed into a state corporation in 1998 through an Act of Parliament. 

Wambugu’s team will recommend a remedy to the existing organisational and structural bottlenecks for the purposes of defining an optimal organisational structure and management at the fund.

On the issues of payment, the team will give appropriate ways to ensure the provision of equitable high quality health services.

Among the deliverables for the team is a report on governance, legal and regulatory detailing proposals for draft Bill(s) draft rules, orders and legislative amendments required to give effect to the above recommendations.

The Expert Panel was given the powers to establish standing or ad hoc technical sub-committees and co-opt such other persons for purposes of providing technical advice on relevant issues.

Besides Wambugu, other members in the committee are Director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko, Acting NHIF boss Nicodemus Odongo, Jacqueline Mogeni (CEO, Council of Governors), Gilda Odera, Jane Chuma, Joyce Wanderi, Edward Barasa and Daniel Kibuga. 

Others include CECs Representative Edward Rukwaro, Sheila Gatu, Thomas Maina, Dr Samuel Mwendwa and Godfrey Kiptum. Cynthia Charchi and Stephen Kaboro will be joint secretaries. 

The members have various experience in institutional transformation and health financing reforms.

Universal health coverage is geared towards providing equal access to quality health care services for all Kenyans and answer to the global concern that no family should be forced into poverty because of burdensome and catastrophic health expenses.