Sunday, August 26, 2012

Man, 128, too old for NHIF computers

Mzee Julius Wanyondu Gatonga, 128, cannot be covered by NHIF since the computer system recognises age from 1890, six years after he was born.

Photo | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION Mzee Julius Wanyondu Gatonga, 128, cannot be covered by NHIF since the computer system recognises age from 1890, six years after he was born.  Nation Media Group

By JAMES NGUNJIRI [email protected]

He is among the world’s oldest men, but cannot get what he needs most — medical insurance cover.

Computers are frustrating Mzee Julius Wanyondu Gatonga’s efforts at getting the cover under the National Hospital Insurance Fund.

He is deemed too old for the system, since his ID indicates he was born in 1884; the computers only accept birth dates from 1890.

For this reason, efforts by his family to have him covered under the NHIF hit a snag; his age is beyond the NHIF computer system, so his application to be a member was rejected due to his age.

Mzee Wanyondu from Mihuti village, Mukurwe-ini District in Nyeri County has had his name rejected several times once entered to be registered as a beneficiary of NHIF.

Family members cannot understand the circumstances under which this was happening. “Unbelievable,” said 70-year-old John Nguru Wanyondu, the fourth child of Mzee Wanyondu.

He said as a family they felt embarrassed by the feedback that their father was too old to be registered.

“Our father is too old, and looking at his age, we don’t know what will happen next, so we are urging the authorities to consider his case and do something,” he said.

He says it is also embarrassing for the family as the system is insinuating that their father is supposed to be dead by now.

Mr John Macharia of Muungano Mwema enterprises, an agent of NHIF based in Mukurwe-ini, said the family members of Mzee Wanyondu visited his office seeking medical cover for their ageing parents.

Mr Macharia said the family first sought to register their parents in March this year, but the old man’s name was rejected by the NHIF computer system.

“The man has been regarded as being too old for the computer, despite the NHIF claim that there is no age limit with the fund,” said Mr Macharia.

He says they now use his 89-year old wife Beth Wanjiru as the contributor, because he has completely been rejected by the system.

Mr Macharia says efforts to get help from the Nyeri NHIF Branch manager have hit a snag as he says he does not understand the error.

“We tried all means to register Mzee, even through his wife’s details, but it still it declined to register him citing age,” added Mr Macharia.

Computer limit

The NHIF systems only accept details of persons born after 1890, but for Mzee Wanyondu, the system fails to detect his age because he is older than the stipulated age limit.

The family now regards this as an issue of age discrimination and an embarrassing computer glitch which needs to be fixed quickly before the medication for Wanyondu becomes urgent.

The family says this may be seen as an isolated case, but there could be other families nursing such elderly men and women, and suffering in silence.

They question how a national health insurance scheme which has full government backing can discriminate against its most senior citizens who played an important role in the country’s history.

Although he is 128 years old, Mzee Wanyondu still walks and does a number of some chores by himself.

According to NHIF registration policies, as long as you are a Kenyan who has attained the age of 18, whether from formal or informal sectors, you are eligible for cover. There is no upper age limit.

A person under NHIF cover is expected to benefit upon admission to a hospital which is a member of the fund, as well as all government and mission hospitals.

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