UHC ROLLOUT

Should free NHIF cover 70-year-olds?

MPs say life expectancy is 66 years, healthy life expectancy is 56 years, 70+ cover questioned

In Summary

•They say years after age 56 are spent in sickness, hence, cover needed most 

•NHIF offers free services only to select people above age 65 in 42,000  households

NHIF building at Community
NHIF building at Community

MPs want the government to lower the age of beneficiaries of the free NHIF cover to 60 years. 

Currently, poor people above 65 years can get free National Hospital Insurance Fund cover, but they must be vetted thoroughly. 

The government plans to expand the free cover to include all people above 70 years who are already receiving the monthly Inua Jamii stipends.

NHIF will roll out the programme, called Inua Jamii 70+, mid this year. 

However, MPs say life expectancy in Kenya is 66 years and the 70+ cover might not be helpful. 

Further, Kenya's healthy life expectancy — the years one can expect to live in good health — is 56 years, the World Health Organization says. 

"This means although Kenyans are living longer, most of the years after 56 are spent in sickness. This is when they need the cover most," Baringo Woman Rep Gladwell Cheruiyot said. 

NHIF acting CEO Nicodemus Odongo said the fund would need more money to lower the age. 

He said currently, NHIF offers the free services only to select people above 65 years in 42,000  households, under the Elderly and Persons with Severe Disabilities health insurance subsidy programme. 

"They access the National Health Insurance scheme (supa cover) like any other scheme members. Their annual premium payable by the government is Sh252 million," Odongo told the National Assembly Committee of Health last week. 

 

Kesses MP Swarup Mishra asked NHIF to prepare costings on how much it would need to include more beneficiaries. 

The Ministry of Health said currently, beneficiaries of the over 65 years programme were a fraction of those receiving the monthly cash transfer from the State Department of Social Protection.  

"TheDepartment of Social Protection provided NHIF with information on 484,086 persons on the Inua Jamii programme for registration under health insurance," Health PS Susan Mochache said.

However, only those in the 42,000 households were chosen. 

She said the ministry was allocated Sh3.2 billion in 2018-19 for all the flagship programmes. They comprise health insurance subsidy for the poor, the existing programme for those over 65 years and severely disabled, and the new Inua Jamii programme for people over 70 years. 

"The process of validating the beneficiaries is underway and implementation for the elderly on the Inua Jamii will start in the fourth quarter [of 2018-2019]," she said. 

Mochache said all these programmes will be merged when the government rolls out the Universal Health Coverage. 

She said the various NHIF covers in the four UHC pilot counties have already been collapsed.