Patients who depend on the national insurer to cater for their hospital bills will be forced to pay cash or stay without treatment after Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Susan Nakhumicha revealed that the government was too broke to remit money to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
In what is likely to make life difficult for the already overburdened Kenyan, Nakhumicha who was interviewed by a local radio station yesterday said the situation in the country was so bad that the national insurer was still struggling with money.
"Kenya is broke and that is the fact that no one can deny at all. The cash crisis has even affected NHIF and that is the whole truth. We are working on all available interventions to see how we will address the situation. One of the best solutions we are thinking about is the introduction of the Finance Bill 2023. That’s why our President is so passionate about it," she said.
"I want to assure Kenyans that we sat down with the President this week and informed him about the necessity of the health sector in the country. I told him that he should prioritize the matter and look for funds to pay NHIF. He agreed," she added.
The CS claimed that the permanent solution would be the adoption of the Finance Bill 2023.
Nakhumicha also revealed that currently, hospitals owed NHIF close to Ksh20 billion.
"We are in talks with Treasury to see how this money will be released. Talks are at an advanced stage and very soon things will be better," she said.
At the same time, Nakhumicha said the government had formed an advisory council that will seek to address the numerous health workers' strikes.
"We have gazetted Kenya Advisory Council that will seek to advise how to deal with health workers in the counties and the national government. In the next two weeks President Ruto will inaugurate members of the Kenya Human Resource Advisory Council,” she said.
Currently, close to 80 per cent of Kenyans depend on the national insurer to pay for their health services.
With the current stalemate kidney failure patients are set to suffer the most as on average a single dialysis session costs between Ksh9,500 to about Ksh16,000.
However, with NHIF coverage patients don’t pay anything unless they exceed the three required sessions per week.
No money remitted
Most of the private hospitals have already withdrawn NHIF and are now asking patients to either pay cash or seek services elsewhere.
"We took the oath to attend to the patients. It is our duty to do this but the situation is not good at all. We have been unable to pay salaries for close to three months now and no one seems to listen to us," Chairman Rural Private Hospitals Association Brian (RUPHA) Lishenga said.
Under the current agreement, the insurer is supposed to pay health facilities for a beneficiary of the national scheme a capitation of Ksh1,000 per beneficiary per annum within the first 30 days of the capitated period.
Additionally, Lishenga noted that no money had been remitted to RUPHA despite numerous letters of assurance from the NHIF board.
"Please be advised that all your capitation beneficiaries, those in the villages and small towns who pay Ksh500 faithfully every month have depleted their credit limits with hospitals. Hospitals have offered them 'credit services' for 60 days since 31st March," RUPHA said.
Ruto's pledges on NHIF
President William Ruto while campaigning said that his government would prioritize NHIF to make health care affordable for all.
During Labour Day celebrations, President Ruto announced that the government had changed the contribution formula and that those paying Ksh500 will part with Ksh300 every month.
The president said his contribution to the fund will increase from Ksh1,700 to Ksh27,500.
"It does not make sense that the president pays Ksh1,700 every month and the normal mwananchi pays Ksh600 to have NHIF. My salary is Ksh1 million, and the boda boda guy earns an average of Ksh5,000. Is it sensible?” Ruto posed.
"Everyone one of us is going to contribute 2.7 per cent of their earning to NHIF so that we can carry this load of health equally," Ruto declared.
However, stakeholders have rejected the proposals, including Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).
Secretary General Davji Atellah said the president cannot claim to increase NHIF funds by raising deductions from workers by up to 2.75 per cent of gross salaries yet the government slashed NHIF funding.
"Civil servants’ medical allowance was removed from payslip to cover NHIF comprehensive services. And now without a medical allowance or salary increases," he said.