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Kenyan Minister moots new health plan

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 10 – The government is set to reintroduce the Social Health Insurance Scheme Bill in Parliament with high expectations that it would pass through this time round.

Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang Nyong’o said on Tuesday that they had ironed out contentious issues that saw it fail to receive Presidential Assent in 2006. He expects Parliament to endorse it without much debate.

“The reason it did not pass through was because it was not clear on how the poor would be taken care of but we have since rectified that,” he said.

The Bill was first introduced in 2005 but was met with sharp criticism by the private sector that ultimately saw President Kibaki fail to assent it.

Prof Anyang Nyong’o now says they have worked on new modalities that will see individuals contribute a certain amount into the kitty, as opposed to the free health care that had been stipulated earlier.

Prof Nyong’o was confident once the scheme is approved, players in the private sector would reduce cost of health insurance. He said this would bring the overall cost of health insurance down making it more affordable to Kenyans who still do not have access to medical care.

“We challenge them by introducing a government product that people can use and this would compel them to bring their costs down,” he said.

He was speaking during the launch of CFC life’s new health product, BLUE, that insures chronic diseases.

CFC life Managing Director Abel Munda noted only two percent of Kenyans were covered by private health insurance companies.

“Another 10 percent that can afford this cover don’t take it which shows that a majority of the population is still exposed,” he said.

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Mr Munda said more employers were beginning to realise that looking after employee health was an influencing factor in company success as well as employee productivity.

He said the new scheme would help in maximising human resource output by minimising the number of days employees take off to seek medical attention.

“Employers are beginning to realise that an employee wellness program is essential to creating a productive and supportive working environment,” he said.

CFC has collaborated with Liberty Health, a subsidiary of Standard Bank group South Africa, and the new cover would be available anywhere across Africa.

Customers will choose from either BLUE Gold or BLUE Diamond, which will give them flexibility in meeting their health needs.

At the same time Mr Munda noted, the insurance industry was facing major challenges as it tried to increase its penetration for health insurance covers into the Kenyan market.

He said this was due to misconception among the Kenyan population that health insurance was only meant for the more affluent people in society.

Mr Munda said this mindset, especially among the poorer in society, had made it difficult for most players in the industry to bring on board more people into formal insurance.

“As an industry we need to endear ourselves to the population so that they can see the value of the products we offer them,” he said.

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The global economic crisis has not done much to aide the situation as people begin to reprioritise the way they spend there money. With the cost of living pushed up, many people have decided to do away with their covers, to foot their day-to-day expenditure.

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