• April 19, 2024
  • Last Update April 19, 2024 7:23 AM
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Mixed reactions as State rolls out new health insurance scheme

Mixed reactions as State rolls out new health insurance scheme


March Tuesday 19, 2024

KNA by Samuel Maina/Molly Kendi

A section of Nyeri residents have expressed varied reactions following the phasing out of the 57-year-old National Housing Insurance Fund (NHIF) to pave the way for the roll out of the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF).

Employed Kenyans are expected to start contributing 2.75 percent of their gross salary to the new scheme while non-salaried persons shall pay a similar percentage form their earnings.

Registration into the new medical scheme kicked off on Friday last week while deductions were to begin on March 1 this year.

The Act is pegged on three key pillars which include the Primary Healthcare Fund, the Social Health Insurance Fund and the Emergency, Chronic and Critical illness fund.

In a nutshell, every person residing in Kenya will now be in a position to access quality healthcare services under the Public Health Insurance Fund (PHIF) as outlined in the new law.

The new Act also provides for the construction of community health units across the country to facilitate delivery and access to primary health care services at the grassroots.

While reacting to the rollout of the new scheme, Lucy Migwi has described the move as ‘heaven-sent’ gift to Kenyans as it would significantly lower the cost of accessing quality health care.

Ms Migwi argues that the old health fund was too restrictive in terms of the amount of capitation that could be channelled to treatment leaving the burden of offsetting any additional costs to individual households.

“Medical cover under the defunct National Insurance Fund used to be a bit limited since it did not cater for every medical condition as one would have wished. Therefore, if the Social Health Insurance Fund is going to cater for patients with chronic conditions like kidney failures, then the health insurance scheme will be a game changer for us all. Patients have previously been forced to stay at home just because they were not in a position to cater for their medication,” said Migwi who operates a clothes’ shop in Nyeri town.She has nevertheless implored the Government to lessen the taxation burden on Kenyans which she says has impacted negatively on the business sector.

Migwi claims the majority of her customers who largely used to be government employees rarely visit her stall nowadays owing to the harsh economic times and therefore additional levies would only leave them worse off.

“These taxations have affected our businesses; we no longer have customers. Most of the civil servants are highly taxed to an extent that what is left of their earnings can barely cater for other needs such as school fees and food. It would therefore be prudent for the Government to halt exerting additional levies on Kenyans to avoid worsening the current situation,” she laments.

Her sentiments were echoed by Martin Luther, a taxi operator who says NHIF tended to be discriminatory and biased towards the employed who enjoyed comprehensive medical cover compared to the unemployed persons.

He says the previous arrangement forced families to seek for alternative funds to foot the hospital bills of their kin including arranging impromptu fundraising meetings.

“One would have thought that just by having paid your monthly contributions to the National Health Insurance Fund was a guarantee to accessing medical care. Unfortunately, that was not the case especially for those not in formal employment. The government could only pay for half of your medical bill while leaving the balance for you to clear. At times families used to literally struggle even to raise the Sh500 monthly contribution. I therefore support the introduction of the Social Insurance Fund as it will cure all these anomalies and ensure all Kenyans regardless of their social or economic status can afford quality health care,” he stated.

But Titus Mwangi, a businessman, wants the Government to base contributions on the basis of the family unit and not on individuals for those who were not in paid employment.

He argues that this would ease the burden for such persons without necessarily locking out anyone from benefiting from the scheme.

“Will the charges be paid as per family or per head? If it is going to be per head then that is a loss. But if its implementation is based on households then it will turn out to be a boon for low-income families who can ill-afford to access quality healthcare due to biting poverty levels,” he pointed out.

The rollout of the new health insurance scheme had previously been stopped by the High Court last November following a petition by businessman Joseph Enock Aura, challenging sections of the scheme.But a three-judge bench sitting at the Appellate court overturned the High court ruling early this year arguing that its decision posed “real and present danger to the health rights of countless citizens who are not parties to the litigation”.

Contributions under the NHIF were capped at a minimum of Sh500 for the unemployed while those earning up to Sh100,000 paid Sh1,700.However, under SHIF, those earning Sh20,000 will be deducted Sh550 while those earning Sh50,000 and Sh99,000 would be required to pay Sh1,375.

Kenyans earning Sh100,000 will be deducted Sh2,750 and those getting Sh200,000 will pay Sh5,500.At the top of the new pay model are those earning Sh500,000 who will now pay Sh13,750 with those getting Sh1 million and above will part with Sh 27,500.

Courtesy; KNA

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