Uhuru hears public outcry, halts new NHIF regulations

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 00:00 |
National Hospital Insurance Fund headquarters on Ngong Road, Nairobi. Photo/PD/FILE

Brendah Wangui and Noven Owiti

President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the Ministry of Health to immediately stop implementing the new National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) regulations in the wake of protests by Kenyans.

The raft of changes announced by the management the insurance scheme on January 7 increased the waiting period from two to three months, limited the number of dependents to one spouse and five children and imposed a 50 per cent penalty per month on defaulters.

NHIF had claimed that the changes would help the country attain a sustainable Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and enhance member retention.

However, the changes have infuriated Kenyans, who termed them punitive and a slap on the face of poor families. 

Governors, MPs and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) had also opposed the regulations.

Cotu, through its deputy secretary Benson Okwara, had asked the government to suspend implementation of the changes to allow for consultations.

Yesterday, the President suspended the implementation of the new rules and called for more consultations.

“I am aware of proposed changes in the fees and structure of insurance benefits of the NHIF.

Given my administration’s commitment to providing affordable health care, I am directing the Ministry of health to immediately halt the implementation of this proposal to allow for further consultation,” he said while addressing the nation from State House, Mombasa.

 Some of the new rules that caused uproar is the requirement that defaulters would have to pay one-year contributions and wait for 30 days before getting benefits while those who defaulted for a year would have to come back as new members.

Maternity access had been restricted to six months after the card matures with specialised services being given six-month waiting period for dependents declared after initial registration. 

The changes further required that newborns be declared within six months and gave a 30-day waiting period for any additional dependents, or in case of a change of spouse for inpatient and outpatient services.

The fund had also proposed a six-month waiting period for specialised services in the case of defaulted payments.

Health Insurance subsidy, Linda Mama, Elderly persons with severe disability and Inua Jamii programme had been exempted from those changes. 

Meanwhile, Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga has faulted the NHIF for failing to conduct public participation before coming up with new regulations.

Wanga criticised the regulations recently announced by the NHIF, saying the proposals did not reflect the wish of Kenyans.

“It is wrong for the NHIF management to hold a boardroom meeting and come up with strict regulations which will deny the common man access to medical care,” said Wanga.

Wanga stated that proper modalities of sealing loopholes, which lead to loss of public funds, should be introduced instead of formulating regulations which will only deny many Kenyans chances of accessing medical insurance.

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