Without NHIF cover, adults 'wont get state services'

National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) card. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Adult Kenyans without the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover risk a Sh20,000 fine and being locked out from government services in proposed regulation to support healthcare for all.

The Ministry of Health and the NHIF are fronting this in the draft regulations published yesterday as part of reforms to help achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Under the draft National Health Insurance Fund (Contributions) Regulations, 2022 published by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, in consultation with the NHIF board, proof of NHIF cover will be required before accessing government services.

“Every person above 18 years of age shall be a registered contributor or beneficiary when seeking government services,” reads the draft.

In a separate draft titled National Health Insurance Fund (Member Registration) Regulations, 2022, every adult will be required to be registered to the fund.

The draft regulations propose a fine of up to Sh20,000 for adult Kenyans that will not enroll to NHIF as the State races to provide healthcare for all.

“The object of this regulation is to ensure that every person who has attained the age of 18 years and resident in Kenya is registered as a member of the Fund,” the draft says.

“A person who does not register as a member commits an offence and shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding Sh20,000,” it says.

If adopted, the regulations could see millions of adult Kenyans cut off from government services, including registration of land titles, approval of development plans, transfer and licensing of motor vehicles, and registration of business names and companies.

Voluntary contributors - usually drawn from the informal sector - pay Sh500 a month to the NHIF while those in the formal sector contribute between Sh150 and Sh1,700 every month, depending on salary scale.

The planned mandatory NHIF membership for all Kenyans will be an upgrade of the current scheme, where only workers in the formal sector are compelled to join.

The draft regulations allow NHIF to use the existing national population data to mobilise people to register. The latest population census in 2019, showed there 24.71 million Kenyans, or 51.9 per cent of the population, were aged 18 years and above.

The drafts will be subjected to public consultation between February 23 and March 22.

Among those targeted for input are trade unions, civil societies, employees and employer associations, development partners, healthcare professional bodies and Parliamentary Health Committee.