NHIF urged to halt reforms awaiting parties’ consensus

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Council of Governors members, led by chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (centre), address the press in the past. Photo/PD/File

Bernard Gitau and Mathew Ndung’u @PeopleDailyKe

Council of Governors (COG) yesterday   petitioned the Ministry of Health to stop ongoing National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) registration until the matter has been deliberated by the two levels of government.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is the CoG chair said in a statement that counties were not consulted on the ongoing registration.

“The national government has a duty to ensure it respects functional integrity by consulting with devolved units before proceeding to undertake any health reforms at the county level,” said Oparanya.

He continued: “Failure to consult and the lack of transparency in such processes can only breed mistrust and in the long run, prejudices counties.” 

Even though delivery of health care is a concurrent function, a majority of the services are being provided by the counties.

Oparanya questioned NHIF’s rushed  registration even before the reform process is finalised as it requires involvement of both levels of government.

“Multi-Agency Taskforce report is yet to be adopted and disseminated.

This report contains significant recommendations that were proposed by county governments,” said Oparanya.

He said if the report is adopted anyway, both levels of government will jointly agree on the roadmap and modes of its implementation.

Oparanya said they are cognizant that the delivery of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a key component in the President’s Big Four Agenda, but was quick to point out that its  development and implementation should be a matter of concern for both levels of government.

“UHC delivery is not a function of the National Hospital Insurance Fund. It is a joint responsibility for the county and national government,” he added. 

He further observed that such a crucial process can only be undertaken once the two levels of government have discussed and reached a consensus on the modalities for delivery of UHC.

 “In any case, the mechanisms for consultation and coordination in the performance of functions are clearly articulated in the Constitution and the Intergovernmental Relations Act,” he added. 

Shared institution

 He said of importance to note also is that, NHIF is an agent of delivering health services and it is a shared institution serving both levels of government.

Elsewhere, the government has been urged to enlist mental illness patients with NHIF to enable them cater for their treatment bills with ease.

James Gitahi, a counselling psychologist, has noted with concern that the cost of mental treatment is way too high to be afforded by most families.

Further, Gitahi decried a huge scarcity of specialised health facilities and caregivers to handle mentally challenged persons, an encounter he said needs to be addressed to help the country fight the growing cases.

Speaking after rescuing Joshua Kamau, a middle-aged man from Ol Kalou in Nyandarua who has been roaming in the streets for over a decade over a mental incapacitation, Gitahi regretted that mental illness stigma has left  families suffering in silence.

Gitahi lamented that many Kenyans disregard mentally challenged persons as people without hope, and in most cases distance themselves forcing them to live lonely lives.

He cited most mental, behavioral and personality disorders as symptomatic.

To support hundreds of families who have failed to admit their ailing relatives over high costs of treatment, the family counsellor called on the government to introduce the cover in the NHIF, saying it would serve as a great financial relief.

“Cost of treating these people is way too high and from experience, I can tell you that most common families cannot afford the expenses.

It is our prayer that the government enlists a cover for these people in the NHIF scheme to reduce the burden of treatment,” he said.

According to James Mburu, the representative of The Bridge, a drugs and alcohol addicts’ rehabilitation centre at Mutomo in Gatundu South and where Kamau was admitted, such cases are common especially in the rural areas.

“The challenge is that most cases are not identified at an early stage and most people attribute them to either witchcraft or spiritual problems, which is not always the case. These people need treatment,” he said.

He said that they frequently admit mentally ill persons from all genders, but men and particularly in their youthful years, are most affected due to their high uptake of outlawed substances.    

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