NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 18 – The government on Wednesday resumed talks with key partners including the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) and the Private sector to explore ways of providing universal health care.
This comes after efforts to introduce universal healthcare early this year were thwarted after COTU and the Federation of Kenya Employers opposed the upward revision of contributory rates for members to fund the scheme.
Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o said out-of-pocket expenditure was causing many Kenyans not to seek healthcare services and healthcare financing cannot be left to the Treasury alone.
“We have discussed and debated on this subject on many occasions but we are yet to make a substantive step towards enabling our people to access quality healthcare whenever they need it. It is therefore my hope that today’s meeting will not just be another meeting where we will talk and go home to our business as usual,” the Minister told the meeting.
He noted that close to 40 percent of the sick in Kenya do not seek healthcare because of high cost with some people going for non-conventional methods for treatment.
If the country is to move forward on provision of universal health scheme, the minister added, it has to be addressed from the perspective of the needs of the common Kenyans which he said could only be through joint efforts between the Treasury, the Private Sector and Kenyans.
“Let’s understand the Treasury; it does not have an elastic bag of money that can expand all the time,” he stated.
He said the mobilisation of financial resources through NHIF has been constrained by the ‘outdated’ mandatory contributions that have remained the same for over 20 years.
“Imagine me contributing Sh320 to be covered for healthcare … what I did when I was at the University of Nairobi in 1977. Obviously if you look at the cost of living index and the purchasing power parity, that figure should have been revised a long time ago,” he insisted.
But the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union Chairperson Victor Ng’ani maintained that universal health coverage must go hand in hand with improvement of infrastructure.
“This country definitely needs a universal health scheme but you see insurance improves access to a service. So if you don’t have the services then the end result is you have room for a scam.
We are having a plan for healthcare insurance but not having a plan for infrastructure development and that lacking aspect means that it will be a cosmetic implementation running on a very good idea of health insurance but having very little impact on health care delivery.
Attempts to review the rates have over the recent past faced opposition mainly from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Kenya Employers who have argued that there were not adequate consultations and NHIF lacked the capacity to handle huge amounts.
NHIF Strategy Manager Chacha Marwa acknowledged that the fund needed to address issues of governance and accountability for them to gain public trust saying they have started implementing a Deloitte report on the scheme.
“We need to be a much more open organisation so that we can come out and be able to disclose a lot of this because we collect this money from the people and we need to be accountable back to the people.