DISRUPTION?

Uhuru wins praise on NHIF directive, warned on reshuffles

President responds to outcry against new NHIF rules and directs them to be shelved

In Summary

•Ministry of Health has fourthe Cabinet Secretary within five years: James Macharia, Dr Cleopa Mailu, Sicily Kariuki, and Mutahi Kagwe

•On January 7, NHIF imposed punitive measures to deter self-employed Kenyans from defaulting in Sh500 monthly contributions

Proposed Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.
Proposed Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.
Image: FILE

Civil society has hailed President Uhuru's decision to suspend the punitive rules imposed by the National Hospital Insurance Fund. 

However, they faulted the President for changing the Cabinet secretaries for health too frequently.

In his address to the nation yesterday, the President responded to the outcry against the NHIF rules and directed them to be shelved. 

 

"Given my administration’s commitment to providing affordable health care, I am directing the Ministry of Health to immediately halt the implementation of this proposal to allow for further consultation," he said.

Head of the National Empowerment of People Living with HIV in Kenya Nelson Otuoma said the frequent changes at the Ministry of Health were unhealthy and could derail the universal health care. 

Otuoma said it takes years for a new CS to get acquainted with health systems, partners and different projects.

"The new CS must learn how universal health coverage works, institutions like Global Fund, Pepfar and must know what we mean by Kenphia. This takes time," he said.

"But just when they begin to understand these things, they are changed," he said. 

The ministry has now seen four Cabinet Secretaries within five years. These are James Macharia, Dr Cleopa Mailu, Sicily Kariuki and now Mutahi Kagwe.

Doctors praised the President's decision to stop the NHIF rules, saying they were passed without any consultation. 

 

"NHIF is still the best insurer in Kenya. It's far much better than all private insurers. But it should not abuse that position by imposing punitive rules on innocent Kenyans," said Ouma Oluga, the secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union. 

"The fund has sustainability issues but it should be supported not fought. No private insurer can match NHIF."

On January 7, NHIF imposed the punitive measures to deter self-employed Kenyans defaulting in the Sh500 monthly contributions.

The rules required a full year's subscription to be settled within the 90 days waiting period. 

 If a member defaulted in payment or pays late, the new rules required that he or she would have to pay half of the monthly subscription for each month defaulted or paid late.  

They required that if the default is for 11 months, besides the 50 per cent of the monthly subscription for all the months defaulted, they would also have to pay another one-year subscription in advance. They would then  be barred from access to services for 30 days after paying up. 

Oluga also welcomed the Health nominee Mutahi Kagwe and incoming CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi. 

He urged the new CS to make substantive appointments in various institutions with acting heads. 

These include the NHIF, Kenyatta University Referal Hospital and the Kenya Medical and Dentists Board.