The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is set to be launched in the four piloting counties in the next two months, the government has con-firmed.
The four are Kisumu, Isiolo, Nyeri and Machakos counties.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki Friday said the Health Benefits Package Advisory Panel tasked to design an affordable and responsive health benefits package for the delivery of UHC will be ready to unveil the programme in one month’s time.
The advisory panel was formed by Ms Kariuki on June 8 through a no-tice in the Kenya Gazette.
The panel will focus on standard criteria of assessing services, procedures, drugs, medical supplies and technologies.
It will also give a portfolio of services and procedures that are properly costed using the best quality evidence.
“We expect that the initial phase of the Panel’s work will be completed in time for the roll-out of the UHC Pilot in the four counties.
"During this first phase of UHC, in collaboration with county governments, the Ministry of Health shall diligently monitor the responsiveness of this package to the needs of Kenyans. This will inform the scale-up of UHC to the rest of the country,” she said.
Ms Kariuki added: “This is a progressive journey and we must achieve it. We are benchmarking from other countries like Rwanda where UHC has worked,” said Ms Kariuki Friday during the inauguration of the panel.
The CS said the use of the four counties as samples would generate the required feedback to guide the countrywide roll-out going forward.
Asked why the counties were chosen among the 47 counties and why the small number, Ms Kariuki said the four counties when merged together would form five per cent of Kenya’s total population.
“Each of the four counties has a special reason why it was chosen. Kisumu has the highest disease burden of infectious diseases, Nyeri highest in non-communicable diseases, Machakos exposed to the highest number of road accidents while Isiolo represented nomadic populations,” she said.
However, several gaps have been pointed out that might derail its implementation.
Speaking during the Nation Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi, Dr Amit Thakker, the chairman of the Kenya Healthcare Federation, said the government must shake up the weak National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) accountability and governance structures, which hinder the seamless roll-out of UHC.
“We must tackle all the challenges to the proper implementation of the coverage. These include systemic delays in reimbursing health providers, false claims from some providers and poor quality of care at some facilities,” he said.
He said the public trust in NHIF needs to be urgently restored.
Amref Health Africa Group CEO, Dr Githinji Gitahi, co-chair of the UHC2030 Steering Committee, said UHC is about equity and not equality. It is about looking for those left behind and bringing them on board.
“We can only achieve UHC as long as we define what it is. Define a package and move towards achieving that,” Dr Gitahi said.