TOO EXPENSIVE?

NHIF Covid-19 snub a blow to war on virus

Kagwe said it is unsustainably expensive for NHIF to treat Covid-19 patients.

In Summary

• Badi said this makes it even more crucial for Kenyans to take extra precautions.

• Kagwe said the government has come in handy to subsidise and write off treatment costs for poor Kenyans unable to pay their bills.

The NHIF cards that lie uncollected at teh Jomvu NG-CDF office.
UNCOLLECTED The NHIF cards that lie uncollected at teh Jomvu NG-CDF office.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

 @Yobramos4                              

The inability of the National Health Insurance Fund to finance the treatment of Covid-19 patients is a blow in the war on the disease, Jomvu MP Badi Twalib has said.

Badi, who was speaking to the Star on the phone Saturday, said this makes it even more crucial for Kenyans to take extra precautions.

“We have seen that the Health CS said it is unsustainably expensive for NHIF to cater to Covid-19 treatment. This means the poor will suffer should they contract the disease,” the MP said.

NHIF CEO Peter Kamunyo on Wednesday told the Senate Standing Committee on Health that it would cost the NHIF up to Sh22.5 billion to finance the treatment of members diagnosed with Covid-19.

The amount would be 35 per cent of the total annual collection, he said.

“It would not have been financially viable for NHIF to finance the treatment of Covid-19 for the current National or Enhanced Medical Scheme members of the fund,” he said.

Kamunyo had appeared before senators to explain why NHIF has declined to meet the treatment costs of its members who have been diagnosed with the disease.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said, however, the government has come in handy to subsidise and write off treatment costs for poor Kenyans unable to pay their bills.

He said it is not practical for NHIF and private insurance companies to cover pandemics.

Meanwhile, Badi said more than 25 NHIF cards have been lying in his office uncollected for two months due to incorrect contact information.

“It is funny. While in some other places, people have to be sent away because their numbers are too large, here we have to look for people to give them their insurance cover,” he said.

“I urge anyone to assist us in tracing the beneficiaries of the said cards so that they can benefit from a one-year free NHIF sponsorship plan funded by my office by directing them to our office, or they may contact Jomvu NG-CDF Hotline 0769 536138 for any arising assistance.”

The legislator also expressed hope that a vaccine for Covid-19 will soon be found.

A few days ago, Kenyan scientists expressed optimism in getting a vaccine as ongoing trials show positive signs of improvement.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute has started Covid-19 vaccine trials in the country with at least 40 volunteer participants.

University Education and Research PS Simon Nabukwesi said it was only a matter of time before Kenya announces the good news.

“In the next few months, we may not be having a big threat from Covid-19. People should have hope,” PS Nabukwesi said.

He addressed the press Wednesday on the sidelines of a symposium on reforms in the higher education sector in Mombasa.

Nabukwesi said Kenyan scientists are actively involved in the search for a Covid-19 vaccine with some including Prof Ratemo Micheka and Prof Raphael Mnavu leading teams across the African continent in the search.

“Through them, we are heading towards winning this war against the coronavirus,” he said.

Germany and South Africa have announced imminent breakthroughs in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Education CAS Mumina Bonaya said the search for Covid-19 vaccine has opened the eyes of many people over the inclusion of women in technical subjects.

She said more females should be encouraged to take up subjects perceived to be difficult in tertiary institutions and which are dominated by male students.

“In the STEM subjects, do we have enough girls? Can girls make meaningful contributions towards getting Covid-19 vaccine? The answer is yes. They have equal ability, and they should be incorporated more,” Bonaya said.

On virtual learning in public universities, PS Nabukwesi said all stakeholders should make an effort to achieve virtual learning after the Covid-19 pandemic exposed Kenya’s education system.

“We expect everybody to make efforts, so that if you are in a place where internet connectivity is poor, you move to a place where internet connectivity is good,” said the PS.

He said, however, there are naysayers in society who always apportion blame instead of finding solutions.

“They remain where there is no internet connectivity, and they keep whining. There are very few who are not accessing learning on virtual platforms and universities have made arrangements to take them through the teaching process, so they can graduate,” Nabukwesi said.

He said university students who have been unable to access virtual learning are less than 10 per cent.