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NHIF assures Kenyans as it prepares for transition

The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) has assured Kenyans of the safety of their contributions as the organisation prepares for the transition to the new Social Health Authority.

NHIF has a total of 15.4 million members. Out of this, only 6.7 million are active members.  In the 2021/2022 financial year, NHIF collected a total of Sh61.53 billion from its members.

The 57-year-old NHIF is set to be disbanded and replaced by the Social Health Authority thanks to the Social Health Insurance Bill of 2023.

The new agency will be responsible for administering three distinct funds - Primary Health Care Fund, Social Health Insurance Fund, and Chronic Illness and Emergency Fund. Under the bill, the Primary Health Care Fund is designated to support preventive and promotive primary care services at the community, dispensary, and health centre levels. 

The Social Health Insurance Fund will cover several services including direct referrals, and secondary and tertiary healthcare, while the Chronic Illness and Emergency Fund is designed to address chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer management, and emergency treatments.

NHIF Chief Executive Office Elijah Wachira told the National Assembly’s Public Investments Committee on Social Services, Administration, and Agriculture that they are documenting the organisation’s properties, liabilities, and assets, which will be handed over to the new authority.

“Many of our dedicated colleagues are working tirelessly, often exceeding 15 hours a day, to ensure we meet our reporting deadlines and other expectations before the upcoming transition,” said Wachira. 

He added: “Our commitment to Parliament and the entire nation is unwavering; we will take every possible measure to safeguard the contributions of our members and their beneficiaries.”

 Dainah Shivoko Atenya who is ailing from heart complications says the NHIF card she normally uses to get medications from both private and public health facilities is not as effective as it used to be. This was during an interview at Woluyali village, Bukura in Butere on June 9, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

While there may be initial challenges, Wachira emphasised that NHIF’s staff is well-prepared and up to the task of addressing the issues that have previously affected the national insurer and expanding health insurance coverage. 

He noted: “We are undertaking this transition while simultaneously learning from our past experiences, ensuring a seamless shift from the current NHIF to the new authority.”

The NHIF boss, who appeared before the committee to respond to the Auditor General’s report for the financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, assured the team that he had made efforts to locate all the necessary documents required to address the raised audit queries.

Some of the issues that the Auditor General included a concern that NHIF has turned into a loaning entity, referring to close to Sh370 million the national insurer advanced to Eldoret-based Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in June 2020 for the construction of a radiology unit. MTRH was to repay the money at an interest of three per cent per year, yet this was not supported by any documentation.

At the same time, the auditor also queried NHIF’s move to buy land in Karen, Nairobi, for the construction of a car park. The project was allocated about Sh910 million. The project started in May 2002 and was scheduled for completion in August 2003. However, the project stalled.

Furthermore, he emphasised his commitment to facilitating investigations that could lead to severe penalties for individuals found misappropriating public funds within the fund. These assurances came in light of concerns raised by committee members regarding the absence of crucial documents that could aid in recovering public funds lost due to fraudulent activities during the tenure of Mr Wachira’s predecessor.

He stated: “I want to assure this committee that nearly all of the requested documents are now at your disposal, amounting to a 99 per cent completion rate. We have dedicated a substantial amount of time and effort, even delving into historical cases, to retrieve these records. While I acknowledge that challenges may arise as I acclimatise to my new role and responsibilities, I am committed to collaborating with this committee to uncover the truth.”

Sabaot MP Caleb Amisi, the vice-chairperson of the committee, congratulated the new management for assembling a competitive team with a wealth of experience to oversee the transition. 

However, he cautioned NHIF to avoid the politics that have plagued the institution for decades, hindering its ability to deliver on its mandate. 

“We encourage the new NHIF team to avoid politics that have dogged the institution for years and instead focus on delivering quality and affordable health insurance to Kenyans,” Amisi said while also suggesting that NHIF should consider devolving services to the counties.

Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe, who chairs the committee, stated that his team would request the Auditor General to conduct a thorough system audit to ensure no public resources, including funds, property, or assets, are lost in the transition.   

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