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Leaders, Kenyans express fury over new NHIF changes

Tuesday January 14 2020

NHIF rules

Bomet Senator Christopher Langat leads a groundbreaking ceremony for a school in Mosoriot, Nandi County, on October 28, 2019. He says that the new NHIF rules are punitive. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VITALIS KIMUTAI
By VITALIS KIMUTAI
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STANLEY NGOTHO
By STANLEY NGOTHO
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Outrage continued to greet the National Hospital Insurance Fund's move to introduce a raft of changes on medical cover for its clients.

Speaking separately, a section of leaders called for the suspension of the new rules, insisting they are punitive.

Bomet Senator Christopher Langat said the changes work against President Uhuru Kenyatta's Universal Health Care (UHC) programme.

"There is need for NHIF to revert to the old system and altogether scrap the changes, which took effect from January 1, 2020," said Dr Langat during the burial of Ms Elizabeth Langat, a church elder at Chepngaina in Bomet Central.

Dr Langat said the NHIF board erred in introducing the changes, which will adversely affect individual contributors who pay Sh500 monthly to the insurer for medical cover.

"What NHIF top managers should understand is that the individual contributors are in the informal sector, with a majority being the unemployed. There is no way you can punish that lot of people when they are already faced with a myriad of challenges," said Dr Langat.

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HURTING THE POOR

Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui, his Bureti counterpart Kiptergech Mutai and Kericho Woman Rep Florence Bore also called on the NHIF management to reverse the directive “as it is punitive to the poor”.

In the new rules, those who have defaulted would be required to pay one off for one year and wait for three months before accessing medical services in preferred hospitals.

"The poor are the most affected by the directive as they will not be able to immediately access medication even after paying up when they default," said Mr Tonui.

Mr Mutai said youth in the informal sector and the elderly would be subjected to untold suffering as they would be expected to dip into their pockets and pay for medication.

He added that the 90 days they are expected to wait after renewing their subscription is too punitive coming from a government agency.

MATERNAL CARE

Ms Bore said women will suffer the most if the new directive is not withdrawn, adding that capping the number of beneficiaries to five is discriminative.

"What happens to women who have more than five children? Who will cover the others? What of situations where orphans have been adopted by a family, thus raising the number of children in that family beyond five?" asked Ms Bore.

Separately, leaders from Kajiado criticised the changes, terming them counter-productive to Universal Health Care.

The county’s Health Executive Esther Somoire said the move is draconian and punitive, pointing out that it will water down county and national governments’ stringent measures towards UHC.

Ms Samoire said the reforms might lock out the neediest people in Kajiado, especially expectant mothers.

“This may contribute to more mothers giving birth at home considering the pastoralist way of life for the community. Currently, the county government has been putting up modern manyattas next to health facilities to entice more women to give birth in hospitals and reduce infant mortality at child birth,” she noted.

BASIC RIGHT

“We oppose the new regulations as they will be detrimental to the success achieved towards UHC. It will be hard for those in the informal sector to contribute Sh6,000 in three months. Worse still, it will be wrong to force them to wait for another three months to access the much needed healthcare,” said Ms Samoire.

The sentiments were echoed by Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku, who maintained that the NHIF’s objective is to ensure more Kenyans are registered and the fund sustainability is assured.

The county boss called for more consultations before the new regulations are implemented.

“NHIF management should take the public backlash positively. Health is paramount to our people and any changes must be considerate to ‘Wanjiku'. Some of the proposed changes are positive but others are punitive and need to be reconsidered,” said Mr Lenku.

Kenyans who spoke to the Nation said the reforms might lock out most contributors in the Jua Kali sector. They urged the Health Ministry to be considerate.