NHIF should address mistrust on scheme
Many Kenyans are in dire need of basic healthcare and majority do not have money to spend on treatment when they fall sick.
A recent survey revealed at least 44 per cent of Kenyans spend Sh10,000 yearly on healthcare.
This is a pittance. Given that some specialists charge that amount for a single visit it means a big chunk of the populace is not getting the right care.
This, however, does not mean the government is not doing enough in terms of healthcare.
In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta prioritised the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) with the promise that millions of Kenyans who do not have enough money to spend on medication will get treatment.
Indeed, in the President’s words, a healthier country and realisation that a healthy population means higher productivity.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the national government expenditure on health services rose by 34.5 per cent to Sh103.1 billion in 2019/20, with development expenditure accounting for 41 per cent.
County governments’ expenditure on health services grew by 16 per cent to Sh106.7 billion in 2019/20, of which 83.5 per cent was on recurrent expenditure.
The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) membership increased by six per cent to 22 million in the same period.
As a result, NHIF members’ contributions grew by 5.7 per cent to Sh59.5 billion in 2019/20. The amount of benefits payout increased by 1.8 per cent to Sh54.4 billion.
The number of health facilities increased from 13,700 in 2019 to 14,600 in 2020.
The number of hospital beds increased by 9.6 per cent to 82,091 while hospital cots increased by 7.7 per cent to 8,946 in the review period.
Majority (45 per cent) of these hospital beds were in public health facilities.
It is on this basis that the recent debate on the amendments to the NHIF Act could not have come at a more appropriate time.
The changes to include more people to the scheme and have the Universal Healthcare Scheme enacted is a good one. However, there is scepticism from industry players that needs to be addressed.
To realise the goal of universal healthcare the scheme provider does not need to discriminate against patients with chronic illnesses.
Equally important, the grace period before one enjoys benefits does not need to be increased.
Delaying services is a disservice in itself. Proper communication and consultation will wipe out such doubts.