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HEALTHCARE BURDEN

Senators abolish mandatory NHIF membership for adults

The bill required all adults to pay at least Sh500 monthly or Sh6,000 annually

In Summary
  • The amendments, which were proposed by the House Health committee, were passed approved the House last week.
  • The Senators also amended the bill to exempt the employers from  mandatorily topping up contributions for their employees whose pay is less than Sh500.
A child holds a copy of his parents NHIF card.
AMENDMENTS: A child holds a copy of his parents NHIF card.
Image: FREDRICK OMONDI

Unemployed Kenyans will now be exempted from mandatory membership of the National Health Insurance Fund.

Senators have amended the NHIF (Amendment) Bill removing the provision requiring every Kenyan above 18 years to contribute to the fund.

The amendments, which were proposed by the House Health committee, were approved by the House last Thursday.

In September, the National Assembly approved the government-backed bill, to make all Kenyan adults enrol with the fund.

The bill required all adults to pay at least Sh500 monthly or Sh6,000 annually in the re-modelled Universal Health Coverage scheme.

The version from the National Assembly had proposed that the NHIF board would determine the rate that the unemployed Kenyans will pay to the fund.

“The national government and county government shall be liable as a contributor to the fund in respect of all public officers, state officers and employees working in the national and county government entities,” the bill read.

It adds, “Any other employer shall be liable as a contributor to the fund in respect of its employees.”

The senators also amended the bill to exempt employers from  mandatorily topping up contributions for their employees whose pay is less than Sh500.

"An employer other than the national government or county governments or their entities liable to pay a matching contribution under section 15 may be exempted from paying such matching contribution,

".... if that employer has procured a private health insurance cover for its employees and the benefits are equal to or better than the benefits that the employees are entitled to under this Act," the amendments read.

It provides that employer, other than the county and national government, can make application to the NHIF board to be exempted from topping up the contributions for their employees.

Earlier, employers had petitioned parliament to remove the proposal requiring them to match their workers’ NHIF contributions.

They argued that it would add burden to them as they struggle to recover from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lawmakers also amended the provision exempting national and county governments from penalties for failed or delayed disbursements to NHIF.

The amendments also reduced the proposed penalty for non-remittance of standard and matching contributions from Sh1 million to Sh500,000.

According to the bill from the National Assembly, the county and national governments were exempted from penalties provided the delays in disbursement caused by the National Treasury.

But the senators said the provision is discriminatory and amended the clause.

“…. such an exemption is unfair and prejudicial against other employers,” the senator said.

They said that being the largest employer in the country, the government should bear responsibility for ensuring that all remittances due to NHIF are paid on time in order to ensure sustainability of the fund.

During his state of the nation address last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta appealed to Parliament to fast-track the passage of the bill to ensure Kenyans get health coverage.

During the debate on the bill, they said the proposed law will help many Kenyans who struggle to pay for their medical expenses.

“All of us agree that medical expenses are expensive to most of our people in this country. Most of us in both the National Assembly and the Senate are always participating in harambees to defray medical bills,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)