Govt pushes ahead with NHIF scheme

March 30, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 30 – The government on Wednesday said it was hatching a plan to go on with the implementation of the proposed National Social Health Scheme despite protracted court battles.
In an exclusive interview with Capital News, Medical Services Minister Anyang\’ Nyong\’o said they were not going to let the court case hold back execution of the controversial scheme.

"We don\’t want to tell our detractors what we are doing but we are moving forward because we are determined," Professor Nyong\’o said.

"The constitution tells us it\’s a right of Kenyans to have access to affordable health care and my responsibility is to make sure that we are ahead so that no Kenyan takes us to court for not doing that," he added.

He challenged Kenyans to oppose any move to derail implementation of the scheme that has been contested in court by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU).

"Kenyans must realise that this scheme is not for me, it\’s for Kenyans! So those going to court and stopping us from implementing this scheme are doing a disservice to Kenyans and it is not for me to plead with them, it\’s up to Kenyans!" he stated.

In 2005, President Mwai Kibaki declined to assent to a similar scheme because of concerns over how it would be funded and managed.

However Professor Nyong\’o said that the new proposed scheme had addressed these concerns.

"The 2005 Bill had proposed that Treasury puts aside some money annually to support NHIF but this time we decided to use the Act that establishes NHIF and gives them power to increase the rates that contributors pay so that they can have sufficient resources to deliver the services," the Minister explained.

With this, the government would only be required to make a contribution of about Sh5 billion annually for the indigent.  At least 6.5million Kenyans are considered to be living in abject poverty.

"We have already developed mechanisms to know who the indigents are for example we have the voucher system in the rural areas where pregnant women are issued with vouchers that they use to pay," he explained.

"That has helped establish the income capacity of rural dwellers so that we identify those who are not able to pay anything and through the same we can identify who the indigents are," he said.

The Minister added that over the past five years, NHIF had been working on its systems to manage its resources well and so the issues of its capacity to handle the huge amounts had been addressed.

"NHIF is the only insurance company which gives rebates to their service providers within three weeks. The other private health insurers give rebates between three months to six months," he noted adding that there was a supervisory division within NHIF to ensure efficient use of funds.

Last year, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) gazetted new contributory rates that had moved away from the Sh320 maximum flat rate contribution to a progressive rate of up to Sh2,000 for those earning more than Sh100, 000 per month as part of implementing the proposed scheme but this is what COTU has contested in court. A hearing is scheduled for May this year.

The scheme would also see NHIF cater for both inpatient and outpatient treatment unlike presently where it caters for only inpatients.

 "It is much safer to the person insured because it is a big fund which cannot go bankrupt. A small private health care insurance scheme can easily go bankrupt because when they get too many claims and the pool is not very big, they find they cannot afford it. That\’s why government must always have an insurance scheme where people can have safety."

The Minister said that the social health scheme would ensure equal coverage for all diseases to every Kenyan.

"When you want to have a medical examination, just like the person who insures in the private sector, you can have it annually," he stated.

"NHIF is going to be a comprehensive health insurance, not an insurance scheme that has exceptions for certain ailments like HIV/AIDS, cancer or other chronic diseases," the Minister added.

Countries like Germany and France that have embraced universal health care systems have their citizens treated in hospitals free of charge.

Most universal health care schemes are implemented through legislation, regulation and taxation.

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