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May 14 strike off as new NHIF rates suspended

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8 – The government has bowed to public pressure and suspended the implementation of the increased National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) rates for three months following corruption allegations.

Subsequently, a strike by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) that was scheduled to start next Monday to protest the new scheme has been called off.

Labour Minister John Munyes announced the move after a meeting with COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli, Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o, and Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) director Jackline Mugo at his office.

“As parties to the matter we have agreed that the intended strike is suspended forthwith; that the implementation of the new NHIF rates be deferred for three months pending a report of the new NHIF caretaker committee in consultations with social partners,” Munyes said adding that the parties had agreed to continuously engage in dialogue over the matter.

The Labor Minister assured that the gazette notice which legalised the new and increased contributions will also be suspended.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka had directed Munyes to launch dialogue immediately over the contentious issue to avert the looming strike after COTU boss Francis Atwoli used the May 1 celebrations at Uhuru Park to serve Munyes with the strike notice.

Atwoli said that the move will allow for all the contentious issues surrounding the health plan to be sorted out and for proper stakeholder consultation undertaken before the scheme takes off.

“There was no consultation in the way this scheme was being implemented and in the way that the rates were increased but this time we are going to be involved and we are going to ask many questions including on rates, the capacity of NHIF and also on the facilities,” said Atwoli who insisted that COTU will remain vigilant on the issue.

NHIF has been embroiled in a boardroom tug-of-war after revelations emerged that billions of shillings had been paid out to some hospitals for services in non-existent clinics.

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Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday sent the entire board packing and called in the government’s Efficiency Monitoring Unit to conduct a probe into the controversial payments.

The caretaker board also appointed by the PM will be charged with examining the current system of rollout for the civil service as well as teachers’ medical insurance schemes and recommend ways to improve them.

Further, the board will establish whether NHIF has the capacity to manage the medical insurance scheme as currently constituted and recommend changes to enable it perform to the satisfaction of the members.

It will also examine all contracts related to the medical insurance scheme and recommend appropriate changes to streamline it to the needs of the end users.

Additionally, the board will be required to review existing policy on Fund investments and recommend necessary changes, recommend a new system for the roll out of the healthcare scheme that will be suitable and acceptable to all stakeholders and to develop a system for the management of the Fund.

Under the new scheme, workers were to pay higher monthly contributions for an expanded service which now includes outpatient cover and chronic ailments.

The new rates would see the highest contributor remit Sh2,000 while the lowest contribution would be Sh150 based on basic earnings.

NHIF had earlier signed a deal with public servants as well as the Kenya National Union of Teachers for the rollout of a similar scheme.

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) through its Secretary General Tom Odege however opposed the caretaker committee appointed by the Prime Minister saying it was not representative of the interests of civil servants.

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