As the current government prepares to leave office, credit goes to President Uhuru Kenyatta for prioritising Universal Health Coverage (UHC) so Kenyans to access quality healthcare services without financial difficulties.
While launching the National UHC Scale-up in Mombasa County early this year, the head of State affirmed his regime’s commitment to “eradicating the ‘poverty of dignity' by ensuring that no Kenyan is forced to choose between medical bills and other essential needs.”
The commitment to healthcare is anchored in the Big Four agenda, which draws support from the 2010 Constitution and the long-term development blueprints - Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vision 2030.
The government identified the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) as an institution to accelerate the attainment of UHC and has reformed it as a strategic purchaser of healthcare.
Key reforms and transformations witnessed in the last 10 years are many. To mention a few, UHC calls for 100 per cent health insurance coverage for the population. Those who can afford pay, and the State identifies and support those who cannot.
There is a marked increase in the population covered from 3.8 million in 2013 to 15.5 million principal members in 2022.
This means over 40 million Kenyans have been protected from poverty due to high out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare services. President Kenyatta’s government has been keen on cushioning indigent and vulnerable households from sinking deeper into poverty due to medical costs.
It has sponsored 1.2 million indigents and vulnerable households out of the 5.1 million identified by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in the 2019 census report. Plans are in place to expand coverage to the remaining indigent households.
The membership growth has increased the revenue base of the fund from Sh13 billion in 2013 to Sh80 billion in 2022 and paid out claims of Sh74.3 billion, an increase of over Sh50 billion since 2013. To secure the financial stability and sustainability of the fund, the State has strengthened the legal framework to support NHIF operations through the amendment of the NHIF Act.
President Kenyatta assented to the NHIF Amendment Bill, 2021 on January 10, 2022, setting the stage for drafting regulations to operationalise the Act. To enhance access to services, healthcare providers have increased from 1,432 in 2013 to 7,800 in 2022.
The author is the CEO of NHIF