'LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND'

One million poor households closer to getting free medical cover

The scheme will be for outpatient and inpatient services, including maternity, dialysis, cancer treatment and surgery.

In Summary
  • The proposed law seeks to establish the Universal Health Coverage Scheme
  • The state has offered to sponsor one million poor homes at the onset of the UHC Scheme.
President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils the UHC logo during the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu on December 13 last year
ENGAGE PUBLIC MORE: President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils the UHC logo during the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu on December 13 last year
Image: PSCU

One million poor households have inched closer to having free medical cover as the proposed law to reform the health sector lands in Parliament.

The Health Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, has been introduced in the National Assembly in President Uhuru Kenyatta's quest for a healthier nation.

The proposed law seeks to establish the Universal Health Coverage Scheme, which will facilitate access to quality, promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services for Kenyans.

The scheme will be under the management of the National Hospital Insurance Fund.

While each household will make a compulsory Sh500 contribution per month to NHIF, the state has offered to sponsor one million poor homes at the onset of the UHC scheme.

The scheme will be for outpatient and inpatient services, including maternity, dialysis, cancer treatment and surgery.

In October 2020, Uhuru directed the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General to fast-track the necessary legislation to entrench the reforms in law.

“In line with the clarion call of leave no one behind, the government will provide health insurance cover to initially one million households who are vulnerable and unable to meet even that low-cost premium,” the head of state said.

Uhuru is seeking to give all Kenyans health cover by 2022 after rolling out a pilot in four counties – Machakos, Nyeri, Isiolo and Kisumu.

The Health Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 seeks to make various and wide-ranging amendments to various health-related statutes to realise UHC in line with the Big Four agenda.

The National Hospital Insurance Fund Act of 1998, will be among the laws that will be amended.

Various other laws will be amended under the Bill. They include the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, the Mental Health Act, the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act, the Kenya Medical Training College Act, the Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Act, the Tobacco Control Act, 2007 and the Cancer Prevention and Control Act.

The bill says the scheme will consist of members making contributions and indigent and vulnerable persons who shall be identified to benefit from government subsidies.

“The persons to benefit from government subsidies shall be identified through the relevant state department which manages safety net programmes in liaison with the Ministry of Health and counties,” it adds.

The scheme will be required to mobilise adequate allocations and efficient utilisation of resources for the delivery of health services.

Already, biometric registration for UHC scheme beneficiaries is underway. Uhuru launched the drive in October last year.

The identification of one million households by the ministries of Health, Labour and Social Protection and counties is also underway.

An e-claims system will be used to improve efficiency and curb fraud and abuse.

The bill states that the scheme seeks to strengthen access to needed health services by ensuring the vulnerable get integrated, cost-effective health interventions.

“The scheme shall ensure quality health services through efficiency of use and equity in the availability of health system resources.”

The scheme will safeguard Kenyans from financial and economic loss emanating from ill-health.

“The scheme shall ultimately give rise to a single consolidated national scheme that is unified and provides an explicit health benefit package to all citizens,” it says.

It is nearly similar to universal health cover in the US known as Obamacare. It is anchored in the Affordable Care Act requiring everyone to have a health cover and imposes a tax penalty on those who fail to purchase a health insurance plan.

It, however, offers subsidies to those who cannot afford a plan on their own through tax credits and paying insurance companies to keep their deductibles low.