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Nyongo vows to push social health scheme

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7 – Medical Services Minister Anyang\’ Nyong\’o has vowed to fight for the implementation of the proposed comprehensive Social Health Insurance scheme that has been entangled in court battles.

The Minister who arrived back in the country on Sunday following a three-month stay in the United States where he underwent prostate cancer treatment, said such a scheme was the only way to ensure all Kenyans received medical attention as required.

"I tell you very humbly, let us all pull our risks together and have an insurance system so that when you are sick you can be treated… but some say they don\’t want that and this defeats me," the minister said on his first day at work in his Afya House office.

He faulted successive governments for failure to invest in health care.

The minister said that he was open to discussions and suggestions on the proposed health insurance scheme.

"If you think that what we are proposing is not appropriate it is better to put your thoughts on paper or come and discuss than to go to court because that just takes a long route and then we come to the same thing," he said.

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) last year gazetted new contributory rates that had moved away from the Sh320 maximum monthly contribution to a progressive rate of up to Sh2, 000 for those earning more than Sh100,000 per month.

The lowest contributor would be required to pay Sh150 for those earning less than Sh6, 000 per month.

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The scheme would see the government contribute about Sh5 billion for the 6.5 million Kenyans considered to be living in abject poverty.

This, according to the minister, would ensure that all Kenyans received the necessary health care when needed without being constrained by finances. However, each Kenyan would be required to have an NHIF card for them to benefit.

But a court battle between NHIF and Central Organisation for Trade Unions (COTU) has delayed the implementation of the new rates.

Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno who was acting Medical Services Minister said there was lack of enough resources for public hospitals to perform while Public Health Minister Beth Mugo emphasised on the need to improve health systems in the country.

"The longer we take to be able to catch up with the latest in terms of technology and human resource development, the longer we take to match the rest of the world; we should be underlining the word shame," Mr Otieno said.

"We call upon the ministry of finance to inject more money in health in the next budget that even if it will not be 15 percent of the GDP as committed by African leaders, then it will be close to that," said Mrs Mugo.

Professor Nyong\’o also expressed optimism that a Cancer Bill that was pending before the parliamentary health committee would be passed into law before the year ended.

He also called on public hospitals to consider leasing equipment where necessary so that no Kenyan was denied treatment for lack of equipment.

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