Seven MPs from Uganda on Tuesday began a three-day benchmarking tour of Kitui County to study the health insurance scheme.
The team will visit county-run facilities, including rural health centers and registration centers where households are enlisted for the scheme, and hold sessions with health officials and members of the assembly's health committee.
So far, the legislators - members of Uganda's parliamentary health committee - have visited Kitui County Referral Hospital, which recently acquired level five status, to see how patients under the scheme are served.
Led by their chairman Michael Bukenya, the team said Uganda was in the process of establishing a similar health insurance cover hence the need to learn how it works.
“We chose to visit Kitui because its health insurance cover is more unique than Kenya’s National Hospital Insurance Fund, in ensuring all residents access quality and affordable health care” Dr Bukenya said.
The doctor, who served as a gynaecologist at Mengo Hospital in Kampala before his election as Bukuya MP, also said Uganda had been following developments in Governor Charity Ngilu’s ambitious Kitui County Health Insurance Cover (K-CHIC).
“They turned around the ailing health sector in the devolution era and Governor Ngilu, who was a health minister, is passionate about health issues” he said.
He added that Uganda's National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Bill, whose discussions began 17 years ago, had finally been approved by Cabinet, an important milestone in the quest for quality healthcare.
Several counties have visited Kitui to study the K-CHIC but this is the first visit by a delegation from another country.
The MPs were taken through the entire process of enlisting beneficiaries, the overall health budget that makes the scheme work, drugs supplies and patients’ bills, which are cleared by the county government.
"We are impressed to see a clean public hospital run like a private hospital. We’ve learnt a lot ... services offered to citizens are incomparable ... we intend to replicate this in our country” said Mr Wilton Owori, an officer from the Uganda National Social Security Fund , who accompanied the delegation.
They were told that much of the health infrastructure, salaries for medical staff and drugs are catered for by the county’s health budget and that the Sh1,000 annual subscription fee per household caters for incidentals and improving management of hospitals.
Dr Grace Rabut, a senior medic who took the legislators through the processes, said that with the K-CHIC, residents no longer have to choose between food and medical care.
The medic said the K-CHIC, taken up by at least 120,000 households, relieved residents of colossal hospital debts that often led to detention of patients in public and private hospitals.
“It is designed to revolutionise the health sector and ensure all people have access to high quality health services in a first major step of liberating them from disease burden” Dr Rabut said.
The scheme covers referrals within the county, mortuary services for up to seven days, ambulance services and inpatient bills for up to 24 hours after the discharge date.
It also covers curative, preventive, rehabilitative and specialised services at all public health facilities.
“All bills incurred by the patients chargeable at hospitals are paid to hospitals by the county. The patients are allowed to [go] without paying for the services offered.”
Residents also have access to laboratory, radiology, ambulance referral, counselling, rehabilitative, family planning, nutrition and theatre services, consult for in- and outpatient services, undergo cancer screening and get medicine.
The MPs will travel to Mombasa on Wednesday to meet top county executives and members of county assembly on the sidelines of a retreat between the assembly and the executive.