Kenyan minister defends new NHIF rates

August 11, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11- Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o has said that the newly introduced National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) contribution rates were the only way for the scheme to provide health services to low income earners.

Professor Nyong’o said on Wednesday that the contribution scheme had not been reviewed for over 20 years despite the fund being the only body that the government relies on to finance health care.

“Rather than waive bills, it is better to have an insurance scheme which will take care of such bills,” Professor Nyong’o said, making reference to numerous occasions that public hospitals have been forced to waive bills for patients who are unable to pay.

“It is very logical that if we share responsibility all of us will be happy and we will live in a society which is more equitable in terms of the distribution of social wealth and also more socially just in terms of sharing responsibility,” he stated. 

NHIF recently gazzetted new contributory rates that have moved away from the Sh320 flat-rate to a progressive rate that goes into effect next month.

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.

The introduction of these new rates has received opposition from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) and the private sector through Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) arguing that there was no commensurate communication on the benefits that will apply.

There are already two pending court cases challenging the new rates.

“You calculate the purchasing power of money over a period of time and as inflation rises you can’t pay the same amount of money. The gloves that were used by nurses five years ago which cost about Sh2 are now costing Sh50 and somebody has to pay for it,” the Minister argued.

“The government does not manufacture money from rocks nor does the money fall like manna from heaven; it comes from tax payers,” he stated.

NHIF Manager in charge of Public Sector Ritchard Sigei told Capital News that they would increase inpatient rebates for hospitals and also improve member benefits to include dialysis and transplants.

Currently, every member is entitled to Sh342,000 per year for inpatient services.

“Although we may not cover 100 percent for these new benefits, the sum will be substantial,” he said.

He added that outpatient services which will be introduced in October would be 100 percent covered.

“NHIF is a contributory scheme and for those who are not members and are poor, we will source for donors to assist through our sponsored programme section. If we don’t get donors for particular patients, then it will remain the responsibility of the government to foot the bills,” he said adding that the poor would be identified through the poverty index.



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