Kitui County could be the first to achieve UHC in Kenya
Kitui County could be the first region in the country to be in a state of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) if the number of vulnerable people brought onto the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is anything to go by.
Out of 262,000 households in the County, it has emerged that 116,000 of them have been enrolled into the NHIF cover following yesterday’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the national insurer and the county. This paved the way for the entry of 85, 000 more beneficiaries.
Already the National Government, through the initiative of President Uhuru Kenyatta placing UHC at the core of his four-agenda legacy projects, has covered an extra 31,000 beneficiary households.
The County Governor, Charity Ngilu pointed out that the MoU between her government and NHIF will provide health insurance cover to 85,000 households.
“This will be for the first time ever in our county,” she said, calling on the other counties to replicate this move in order to accelerate the rate of UHC coverage in the country.
It is arguably, the first time in Kenya according to NHIF Chief executive Officer, Dr. Peter Kamunyo, when such a large number of ordinary citizens in one County are getting health insurance.
“The indigents who have been captured in this MoU will benefit. This means that most of the covered beneficiaries will be able to get medical care within the County’s public health facilities, therefore further benefiting the County through capitation,” Kamunyo said at NHIF Building yesterday afternoon.
He noted that this move will enable the County to reach the mandatory 80 percent, a global standard, for countries achieving that to be in a state of UHC.
“If Kitui county reaches 80 percent of the people covered under the NHIF, it would be the first county to be in state of UHC,” he pointed out.
The Governor called on Kenyans to enrol with the NHIF because it is the sure way of accessing health services as stipulated in the UHC’s key goal of not leaving anyone behind.
“This will be a landmark achievement and one for which we are extremely grateful to his Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, who has enabled the UHC dream to come to life in this country,” she added.
Currently only about 79,320 households in the county are insured with an estimated 30.2 percent of them having any medical insurance of any kind. Most of them, Ngilu said, are teachers and other civil servants, as well as city-based professionals and business people.
“Over 60 percent of our population is classified as poor, and therefore lack the means to meet their day to day needs including needs for health care,” she noted.
Over 80 percent of the County’s residents are dependent on public health facilities for their health care.
“This places a huge demand for the County Government to allocate resources to meet this demand,” Ngilu stated noting that this has made the health sector the biggest spender in the County’s annual allocations with Sh3.7 billion set aside to address health issues.
She said it is the reason why the County government has decided to set aside about 10 percent of the Sh3.7 billion every financial year to support some of its most vulnerable households to enroll for UHC through the NHIF.
“In our co-pay programme my government will pay 50 percent of the annual subscription of Sh6,000 for each beneficiary household, then the beneficiaries pay the other 50 percent,” she stated.
Data with the Ministry of Health and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that the County has the highest number of health facilities in the whole country.
And it is the reason according to Ngilu, the County spends nearly 33.6 percent of its annual budget on the health sector – perhaps the highest amongst the 47 Counties.