As Kenyans were preparing to bury retired President Daniel arap Moi, more sad news came through from the Ministry of Health: the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is also on its deathbed.
We have waited since 1978 for the country’s second state funeral, only to get warning shots that if we don’t save the NHIF, Kenyans will line up again in two years’ time to send their condolences to the NHIF Building, and those who rely on it for medical insurance.
It is public knowledge that the NHIF has been unwell even though we have been sending what little we have every month to keep it alive.
But a new report released this week by the Health Financing Reforms Experts Panel reveals that not only has the NHIF been suffering from mismanagement of funds and endemic corruption, it has also been unable to ward off political interference and grave diggers.
Remember Fredrick Sagwe Onyancha, whose story shook the country in 2018?
He was a receptionist at the NHIF, who bought eight houses worth Sh160 million and a chain of car and carpet-cleaning businesses valued at Sh50 million, all in the span of a year after spending some time on the NHIF’s tendering and evaluation committee.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations(DCI) also informed us that the properties are managed by his wife, whom he married in a lavish ceremony held at a high-end Nairobi hotel, which cost them Sh25 million.
Mr Onyancha’s case went quiet after that and we still have no idea if the money will be recovered.
We would have expected the NHIF to demonstrate to Kenyans that our money is now safe from the reach of dirty fingers and evil minds.
However, the task force recommends that in order to save the NHIF from collapse, the President must squeeze the Kenyan wage earner a little harder by taking back his decree to halt the implementation of the new NHIF rates.
This is not the news we had hoped for in these difficult economic times. Kenyans are being retrenched in worrying numbers.
Companies are downsizing in droves. Businesses are closing shop, and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) still won’t tell us how it intends to solve this pathological mess.
The NHIF is the only health insurance scheme that is friends with the poor. Its design is fairly accommodative and comes highly recommended for those with shallow pockets and moody jobs.
If the NHIF dies, the President will have to order that the national flag fly at half-mast again, for with it will be the death of the public healthcare system and a nation’s concern for the poor.
On paper, the Kenyan Constitution bestows upon Kenyans a host of individual rights, among which is the freedom to choose the health insurer you would trust in sickness and in health, in riches and in poverty, till death do you part.
However, the reality for a majority of Kenyans doesn’t reflect this ambitious aspiration.
More than 50 years since we kicked colonialists out like polio, we still have Kenyans who not only do not have the luxury to choose where to go when sick, but also do not know where their next meal will come from.
Anyone who cannot afford a Spartan diet neither has the money to take up health insurance, nor has the network to bail him out whenever his body organs give him an emergency call.
One of the major campaign promises by the Jubilee government was to ensure access to a free, quality primary healthcare for all Kenyans.
It is barely three years since their re-election, and it seems the only free service this government intends to offer is free coffins for Kenyans dying from corruption, government neglect and empty promises.
Just last week, the Daily Nation ran an exposé on how poor Kenyans are handled like goods on a market floor by healthcare organisations who see us as cash cows to be milked, even though we don’t have horns and our milk is not for sale.
These reports of exploitation by unscrupulous healthcare providers would not have been rampant had the government not let the public healthcare system run on empty shelves, faulty equipment and regurgitated prayers.
It is outrageous that Kenyans deny themselves food to send money to NHIF every month only to hear that someone is carting away that money for their personal luxury and matrimonial bliss.
This is the kind of news that makes you understand why the public mete out instant justice on those with sticky fingers and satanic greed.
Anyone who steals money meant for dying patients not only has zero morals, but also does not deserve to enjoy his evil loot.
If government agencies will not expedite the recovery of NHIF funds stolen by these unrepentant gluttons, then Kenyans should ask the BBI to give power back to the people, because justice delayed is justice denied.
If the NHIF dies, those who looted it to its bare bones should just die with it.
Mr Oguda comments on topical issues; [email protected]