The hot NHIF matter that has left DP Ruto, Atwoli trading insults

Deputy President William Ruto speaks at Chatham House, London, UK. [DPPS]

Deputy President William Ruto and COTU boss Francis Atwoli are going at it over the proposed changes in the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) Contributions Regulations, 2022.

Ruto, while delivering a talk at the Chatham House in the UK on Monday, March 7, accused Atwoli of opposing the reforms aimed at benefitting low-income earners.

The DP posed: “The people at the bottom of the pyramid are carrying a heavier load than those at the top. That man Atwoli, he is supposed to be representing the lower [income] people, what business does he have defending those at the top?”

Ruto claimed that it was foolish for Atwoli to take the matter to court, as the government strives to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

But in a rebuttal, the COTU Secretary-General accused the DP of theft and using underhand methods to see the passage of the NHIF regulations.  

Atwoli alleged that Ruto had attempted to improperly benefit from the NSSF, and when he stopped him, the deputy president resorted to holding a grudge.

He further alleged that Ruto was creating ground to reject the outcome of the 2022 August polls, should he be defeated.

“You cannot create or spur economic growth using the poor. Kenyans want honest leaders,” said Atwoli.

COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli at his Upper Hill office, Nairobi. [Jenipher wachie, Standard]

Last month, the Ministry of Health published draft regulations that will see an increase in the NHIF contributions should they be passed.

Draft regulations by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in consultation with the NHIF board seek to change the current bands, where maximum contribution is capped at Sh1,700.

The proposed regulations, if passed, will increase monthly premiums for earners of more than Sh100,000 beyond the current flat rate of Sh1,700.

In the proposals, Kenyans earning Sh100,000 and above will have to part with 1.7 per cent of their gross salary, which will be channeled to the NHIF kitty. That means that someone receiving a gross salary of Sh500,000 monthly will be deducted Sh8,500 in NHIF deductions.

Increasing premiums for top earners looks to raise income for NHIF, which is expected to take the lead in implementing the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme.

The draft regulations also 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.

In June 2021, Atwoli rejected clauses in the NHIF (Amendment) Bill, 2021, terming the proposals untenable, counterproductive, and punitive to unemployed youth and even employers.

He noted that the proposed amendments should be shelved and Universal Healthcare executed through a body managed and constituted outside the management structure of the NHIF.

The proposals, according to NHIF Chief Executive Peter Kamunyo are currently being subjected to public consultation until March 22.