The National Health Insurance Fund( NHIF) has called for research to determine why over 42 per cent of women seeking maternity services are opting for surgeries as opposed to normal delivery.
According to data from NHIF, the number of women seeking birth surgeries, referred to as Caesarian Section, has increased and is almost at par with women who have normal deliveries.
In 2014/2015, the NHIF paid out health insurance maternity claims for a total of 61,420 births nationally, out of which 20,773 of the new mothers underwent C-section.
NHIF Chief Executive Officer Simeon ole Kirgotty said the numbers were alarming and it was unclear why at least 34 per cent of women were undergoing the procedure.
“We need more research into the trend to find out why more women are undergoing C-sections, so far we can only speculate,” Kirgotty said.
He said it was a probability that women were choosing the surgery due to lifestyle trends or more medics are recommending the procedure for women.
“Last year, NHIF paid a total of Sh390,895,384 million insurance claims for 21, 721 women who underwent the C-section. This year the numbers indicate we could have up to 42 per cent of women undergoing the procedure,” Kirgotty noted.
The proportion of the women undergoing the birth surgeries is particularly overwhelming in Mt Kenya region, according to a former National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) official in Central Kenya. She also attributed the trend to lifestyle changes.
But some believe hospitals prefer the method because it earns hospitals more revenue.
NHIF has 5.9million registered contributors, with an average 20 million beneficiaries of the fund.
Kirgotty was speaking during a two-day forum for NHIF stakeholders in Central region, where employers and health service providers discussed their challenges in engaging clients.
The NHIF boss said the insurance board was in the process of reviewing the amount paid out for various services, including maternity.
“The board has proposed we increase the amount allocated to C-section deliveries from Sh18,000 to Sh25,000, while normal deliveries will cost Sh8,000 as opposed to the current Sh6, 000,” Kirgotty said.
The NHIF boss also assured Kenyans in the informal sector that there was a working committee discussing ways to address recent complaints that the new NHIF rates for self-employed members were too high.
Speaking to employers at a Nyeri hotel, Kirgotty said despite the huge discrepancies in the informal sector, NHIF would continue to charge Sh500 fee until an alternative was proposed.
“The Parliamentary committee for Health and NHIF board members have met to discuss the increased fee of Sh160 to Sh500 for informal sector members and we hope to offer a way forward soon,” Kirgotty said.