NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 25 – The government remains adamant that the recently increased statutory contribution to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) will be implemented despite public uproar and court cases.
Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyong’o told Parliament on Thursday that the new contributions were meant to expand the fund and offer more healthcare benefits to a majority of Kenyans. Prof Nyong’o said the national health insurer will now offer both inpatient and outpatient cover as opposed to the current outpatient services only.
“NHIF will pay for general consultations, laboratory tests, drugs and medicines, diagnosis and treatment of common ailments, Sexually Transmitted Infections, health and wellness education, family planning, and antenatal care for all its members,” he said.
Others are dialyses, transplant costs and common surgeries.
The Minister affirmed that the new system will inject Sh10 billion into the health sector. He said the current arrangement where the insurer only pays for inpatient charges does not properly cater for its members who regularly seek outpatient services.
“It has been necessary for the NHIF to look at how to include outpatient in this scheme as required in their original mandate since 75 percent of its members seek outpatient services and are now ignored,” he said.
Prof Nyong’o accused the current uproar to the instigation of private insurance companies who are charging high rates and whom he said are worried of losing business.
The recently gazetted new contributory rates have moved away from the Sh320 maximum contribution to a progressive rate of up to Sh2,000. The lowest contributor will now pay Sh150 – which applies to those earning less than Sh6,000 – while the highest contributor will fork out Sh2,000 for those earning more than Sh100,000.
In a departure from the mood of the public and the recent bashing of the increments, Members of Parliament supported the Minister but with caution on the capacity of the national insurer.
“A healthy nation is a productive nation and we must ensure that our people are taken care of. The only problem is that we are trivialising this issue,” Kitutu Masaba MP Walter Nyambati said.
Gichugu MP Martha Karua said: “I agree with the Minister that it is good to expand medical cover to bring in more people.”
The introduction of the new rates has received opposition from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Federation of Kenya Employers which have already challenged the decision before the Industrial Court arguing that there was no proper communication on the benefits that would apply. The Industrial court will make a ruling next Monday.
The legislators called on the Minister to ensure that the capacity of the national insurer is enhanced to ensure that the funds are administered with integrity.
“We are increasing the inflow yet the efficiency of NHIF is wanting,” cautioned Kisumu town East MP Shakeel Shabir.
“The problem we have with NHIF is that it has diverted its mandate to investments and property development,” added Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu.
The Minister assured that his Ministry had contacted the International Finance Corporation which is currently undertaking a management audit to ensure that enough capacity is built in the insurer.
“We are hoping this will help us seal the loopholes that are there,” he said.
He further said the government had prioritised to expand and equip public hospitals to ensure that they provide quality services to members. He said his ministry was currently working at 63 districts and sub districts hospitals. He however said funds remained a setback since the Ministry requires Sh540 billion to improve the hospitals in the country.
MPs also urged the Minister to come up with a mechanism to ensure that businessmen also make contributions to the insurer.