Kenya: New Health Scheme Targets Nine Million
BY WAMBUI NDONGA (Capital FM (Nairobi)
The government is planning to launch a new health scheme dubbed the Indigent Fund that will target nine million Kenyans who live below the poverty line.National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Strategy and Planning Manager Chacha Marwa told journalists in Nairobi on Tuesday that the government had already rolled out the pilot phase randomly and would slowly expand it to the national level beginning next year.
Chacha said the entire scheme would cost Sh23 billion to be funded by monies drawn from the Exchequer. He however admitted that it was still too early to determine how exactly the government would raise the money.
"There are very many modalities and proposals that have been put on the table on how we are going to raise these funds. One of them is targeting a portion of the Value Added Tax like it happens in Ghana and the Philippines but we are still in the infancy stage," he explained.
Chacha further argued that the poor needed an exclusive scheme because they had been historically delineated from the main healthcare scheme.
"The health conditions of poor people in this country are worse than they are for everybody else; there is that demand for them to get better healthcare," he said. "So we need to start gradually from something like five percent coverage before eventually covering the entire country by the end of the fifth or sixth year," he added.
Chacha explained that the National Social Protection Framework identified criteria that would be used for establishing who fell under this category.
"This framework has clearly identified the targeting mechanisms and that means that we are able to determine who the poor people are. Databases are going to be developed together with effective monitoring systems so that we know who these people are," he explained.
The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) has however cast doubt on the government's ability to fund the plan saying it has been unable to make significant contributions to the NHIF.
Head, Research and Policy Advocacy Lineth Oyugi said the government should go back to the drawing board.
"Those people who are poor cannot contribute to this fund so who is going to fund it if the government cannot put in money? The NHIF as it is does not receive money from the government so this scheme is neither here nor there," she argued.
The federation also implored the government to revise the new NHIF rates with Oyugi saying that they were not fair.
She noted that Kenyans on the lower end were contributing a higher proportion of their income at about five percent while those on the opposite end were contributing one percent of their income.
"These rates are punitive for the poor Kenyans so the NHIF has to revise them again and revoke the ones that were gazetted," she urged.
NHIF Chief Executive Officer Simeon ole Kirgotty however dismissed the call saying there was need to implement the new rates before any revisions can be made.
Union of Kenya Civil Servants Secretary General Tom Odege also challenged the government to upgrade the services offered in public hospitals.
He further accused the government of being high handed saying it should allow Kenyan workers to manage the scheme.
"Public hospitals must be up to task because the services we get are not commensurate to the money pumped in," he pointed out.