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Rights lobby threatens protest over proposed Health Insurance Bill

 Lobby groups address the press at KARC offices along Valley Arcade, on September 26, 2023. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Lobby groups have threatened to take to the streets against the newly proposed deductions for the public health insurance scheme.

They have accused the government of wanting to impose more burdening deductions considering the proposals in the Social Health Insurance Bill, 2023.

Besides the bill on health insurance scheme, they are faulting the Unemployment Insurance Bill, 2023 that, if passed, will require employees to remit one per cent of their income to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), under the Okoa Uchumi umbrella, have threatened to mobilise the public to protest against the deductions that they described as punitive.

"Scenarios of this nature have become a trend, thus subverting the will of the people. We will call the public to the streets," said Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director Davis Malombe.

He spoke on Tuesday alongside other CSO leaders at Kenya Human Rights Commission premises in Nairobi.

He added that it is a decision they will take if their judicial interventions are floored by court.

This happened even as the National Assembly began debate on the proposed Social Health Insurance Bill on Tuesday 26.

The bill seeks to introduce a new mandatory 2.75 per cent monthly contribution to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

According to the Okoa Uchumi coalition, more than 70 per cent of Kenyans are against the proposed NHIF deductions, in a survey they claim to have conducted between May 19 and June 6, this year.

In what the proponents of the bill say is strengthening the scheme, the bill also proposes for establishment of the Social Heath Authority.

As stipulated in the bill, the authority will be tasked, among other functions, to register beneficiaries, manage funds and contract healthcare providers.

Zaina Kombo of Amnesty International-Kenya faulted the government over what she termed as disregard for public participation on national issues.

She said, "Social Health Insurance Fund gives more power to the cabinet secretary in consultation with proposed authority without considering public views," she said.

Social Justice Centre Working Group's Wilfred Olal decried wanton corruption that she said has seen detrimental wastage of public resources.

According to the rights activists, Okoa Uchumi is a civil society platform that works collaboratively with human rights stakeholders to redress Kenya's public debt.

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