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September 23, 2018

Kenya’s universal health plan to mirror Thailand experience

The experience of Thailand in universal health coverage will heavily inform Kenya's plan, which will initially be rolled out in four counties.

The Asian country introduced the UHC in 2001 and by 2011, the programme covered 98 per cent of its 68 million population.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said evidence from that middle-income country informed Kenya's decision to launch pilots in four counties, before the national roll out.

“Thailand piloted UHC in six provinces in April 2001 before it rolled out nationwide in April 2002,” she said.

Currently, Thailand's UHC package covers all curative services, health promotion, disease prevention and rehabilitation, and full protection of households from financial health risk.

At least 75 per cent of the insurance scheme is financed by the government and people pay nothing when they visit public hospitals.

This is the goal of universal health coverage, which is to ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.

Kariuki said Kenya would test 100 per cent health coverage in Kisumu, Isiolo, Nyeri and Machakos counties to assess the feasibility of the package for the entire country.

“This exercise will be funded by the national government with additional funding from available conditional grants,”she said.

Last week, Kariuki said Kenya would not go the South Korea way, where the public insurer like the NHIF enjoys monopoly.

However, she said Kenya would borrow other lessons from Seo

In Thailand, the contracted health providers continue to be non-profit public hospitals.

The country's success is supported by the extensive geographical coverage of a functioning primary health care system which was the result of three decades-long investment by successive governments in infrastructure and the health workforce.

Currently, a child born in the country can expect to live for 74 years, while child mortality is 12.3 per 1000 live births and total health spending is 4.6 per cent of the GDP.

Currently, Kenya spends six per cent of DGP on health, and has a life expectancy of 62 years and a child mortality rate of 22 per 1000 births, according to Unicef.

Thailand has currently created a UHC learning programme supported by Japan.

Kenya's ministry of health says the counties not covered in the pilot will each benefit from a piloting that will cover 10,000 households.

“My ministry is working in consultation with CoG and The National Treasury to ensure that funds for this aspect of UHC is made available,” kariuki said.

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