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Uhuru calls for NHIF changes, launches biometric listing

Health & Science

Calls to overhaul the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) dominated launch of the Universal Health Care (UHC) registration yesterday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) launched the biometric registration of UHC beneficiaries that will see one million households sponsored by the NHIF.

Under UHC, NHIF will cover all illnesses, including cancer treatment, and that the cost of patients seeking healthcare services abroad will also be paid by the State health insurer.

It will be mandatory for Kenyans to enroll with NHIF once necessary laws are enacted by Parliament, in the government’s push to increase the fund’s financial strength.

Uhuru said the process to overhaul NHIF will be fast-tracked to stop pilferage, bolster efficiency and reduce the cost health services.

Amending laws 

“If you will not handle the funds with care and caution required, some of us will go to great length to make sure that you are punished to full extend of the law,” warned Uhuru.

He directed the Attorney General to draft regulations that, once enacted by Parliament, will see radical reforms in the loss-making national health fund.

The president said ongoing reforms at NHIF would determine the success of UHC which, he said, had evaded the country for years. 

He said a mandatory scheme for all Kenyans to be managed by NHIF and regulated by the Ministry of Health, will be established.

“We ask the MPs that they should not delay us with unnecessary debate. It is no time to show us prowess in debate. Pass the laws because it is time to deliver,” said Uhuru.

The Council of Governors (CoG) said in the proposed review of the NHIF Act, counties should also have a say in its operations because they were its biggest clients.

CoG Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said NHIF should be a shared entity between the two levels of government and that 70 per cent of Kemsa board should be representatives of counties.

Counties have agreed to set up County Health Fund and to allocate 30 per cent of their budgets for the health services to support UHC programme.

Uhuru said his administration has for the last two years laid the ground for the launch of UHC, noting it was a constitutional right for Kenyans to access affordable healthcare.

“Through the BBI (Building Bridges Initiative), Kenyans have also proposed fundamental changes in the health system in the country,” he said.

Uhuru said he will personally monitor the proposed reforms at NHIF, which is key to the success of UHC, and is part of the Big Four Agenda.

Vulnerable members

Yesterday, the president launched the biometric registration of one million vulnerable members of the community to benefit from the country’s first national medical scheme.

The ministries of Health, Labour and Social Protection, and county governments will identify the said one million households.

Uhuru said the success of UHC will require close collaboration of the two tiers of government with development partners and participation of religious sector and civil society.  

“In 2018, one million Kenyans were impoverished because of the high medical expenditure for either themselves or loved ones. Health care is still a challenge to Kenyans,” said Uhuru.

He said UHC pilot in four counties was a success.

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