Kenyans paying dearly for healthcare

September 24, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 24 – The Kenyan healthcare system has become too costly due to a high rate of defaulting payments, the government has said.

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o said this was the reason he wanted a proposed Comprehensive Social Insurance Scheme to be introduced in the country.

“What we are saying is that rather than be pennywise and pounds foolish by making Kenyatta National Hospital run into a debt of Sh360 million a year, let us come upfront and spend Sh50 million to insure these people so that when they go to Kenyatta or any other hospital for treatment, that debt is not accumulated, instead the hospital is paid instantly by the social health insurance,” the Minister said in an exclusive interview with Capital News.

He said that under the proposed scheme, the government would be required to set a certain amount of money from the exchequer to cater for the health services of the poor.

“There is already a method used for giving free maternity care to women in the rural areas who are established as poor and it is working very well. What we are going to do is to use this mechanism together with CDF (Constituency Development Fund) committees to identify the poor,” Professor Nyong’o said.

The proposed health scheme is a modification of the one passed by Parliament in 2005 but which president Kibaki declined to assent to. The Minister said they hoped to use electronic cards, should the proposal sail through.

The Minister said this would push the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to invest in making diagnosis more efficient and if adopted the current NHIF cards would become obsolete or be progressively replaced.

“We want to introduce a smart card that has a computer chip where all health data of a person will be entered,” he explained.

“If for example I go to a health centre and I am diagnosed, all that information will be available here and in that regard we shall cut out this present system where people go to multiple health centers being treated for the same thing, spending a lot of money on that drug and not having any effect,” he said.  

The Minister also said that contributions to the proposed scheme would be on percentage basis rather than a flat rate.

“For example I will pay up to two percent of my salary every month (which) should not go beyond say Sh3000 per month, you will find that invariably the high income earners will help in subsidising the health care expenses of the poor,” he said.

In 2005, Parliament passed a bill to allow for the introduction of the Comprehensive Social Insurance Scheme but the President declined to assent to it.

Professor Nyong’o said the bone of contention in 2005 was how to pay for those who didn’t contribute to the fund particularly the poor.

The Minister said the proposed Comprehensive Social Insurance Scheme would also cater for outpatient treatment because 75 percent of Kenyans who sought healthcare were outpatient.

“If this is adopted, it will reduce the cost of healthcare in the country because 56 percent of payments are made out of pocket,” he said.

He however appreciated that outpatient treatment was difficult to handle because it was more prone to fraud.

“We want to avoid that with this smart card so that if I am at a certain clinic today and I am treated for an ailment, it will not be possible for me to go to another clinic the next day to be treated for the same ailment,” he said.

The Minister said NHIF would be having a two months pilot project beginning in October in four regions to see how it worked and the amount of money NHIF was likely to spend on a daily basis when covering outpatient.


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