Shield Kenyans from high health care cost
Top lawyer Evan Monari was buried at his Nyamira county yesterday with friends and family eulogising him as a brilliant legal mind with an appetite for the finer things of life.
For all intents and purposes, Monari, a saxophone player and horse rider, was high society. But fate seems to have conspired against him; he was the most vulnerable.
As the top lawyer fought the pangs of pancreatic cancer and his health ebbed away, the family was appealing for help to meet medical bills that hit nearly Sh16 million.
Monari spent the last days fighting for life in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
As the burial plans were underway, the daughter of former Mt Elgon MP John Serut made a passionate appeal to well-wishers to help the family foot the medical bill to the tune of Sh20 million.
The family has been treating the former legislator since January last year and the illness has depleted their finances.
We are also aware of cases of other Kenyans who were forced to sell property and sunk into penury because of medical bills.
But the fact that Kenyans of Monari and Serut’s stature could be this vulnerable should raise questions on affordability of health care, especially for ordinary people most of whom have no access to insurance cover and high end social protection.
The insurance covers are also limited, with most Kenyans living from hand to mouth.
What chance is there that a poorly paid casual worker at a factory, peasant farmer and small business holder will access affordable and quality health care?
The Constitution demands the government ensure citizens access quality and affordable health care.
Though the Parliament has enacted laws to help actualise the constitutional aspiration, the reality on the ground is different.
The government had piloted the Universal Health Care initiative in some regions.
Recently, the National Assembly passed the National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2021, that established the UHC scheme which should, among other things, make the cost of treatment affordable. The move while noble is yet to be effected.
But experts have warned such will only be possible if there is adequate health workforce, facility financing as well as subsidising medical costs for low-income households and part-funding health insurance schemes.
The investment the government put in in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic shows it can be done. Let’s not spare any cost to shield citizens from the vagaries of illness.