HEALTHCARE

UHC: Health services affordable, not free

This benefits package might be modified to reflect unique challenges in different counties when the national plan is rolled out.

In Summary
  • The government launched the pilot UHC on December 13, 2018, but the national rollout planned last year was put off due to Covid-19
  • Only child, maternal and mental health services were free of charge during the pilot 
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto launch the Universal Health Coverage pilot at Mamboleo showground, Kisumu, on December 13, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto launch the Universal Health Coverage pilot at Mamboleo showground, Kisumu, on December 13, 2018.
Image: PSCU

Universal Health Coverage does not mean free healthcare. 

It means all people can access the health services they need without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.

It also entails detecting health conditions early, having the capacity to treat disease, and helping patients with rehabilitation.

It must also be affordable so people do not suffer financial hardship when paying for services.

The government launched the UHC pilot on December 13, 2018, but the national rollout planned for last year was put off due to Covid-19. 

While residents of the pilot counties received free services, Kenyans will need to somewhat pay through an insurance scheme managed by the National Hospital Insurance Fund, when the plan goes national.

Only child, maternal and mental health services were free of charge during the pilot. 

This benefits package might be modified to reflect unique challenges in various counties when the national plan is rolled out. 

The new format will be different from the one tested during the pilot in Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo for Sh3.17 billion.

The NHIF Reforms Panel had recommended a government-funded scheme similar to the one in Britain where the state allocates funds directly to NHIF to cover about 30 million Kenyans. The panel, headed by veteran insurer James Wambugu, said the Sh500 monthly contribution was unworkable.

Under the current plan, Kenyans will not enjoy entirely free services in public health facilities, at least not at the beginning.

However, the government will pay NHIF premiums for about 1 million poor families.

The registration of poor families was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 31, 2020.

Later, the government is expected to introduce legislation to ensure those who want to utilise UHC’s benefits package pay at least Sh500 monthly premium to NHIF.

This premium will cover one nuclear family, being at most two parents and children under 18 years. Dependents can also be covered through their parents up to 24 years if they are in school, or lifetime if they are severely disabled.

During the pilot, the beneficiaries' premiums were paid for by the government.

The NHIF Reforms Panel had recommended a government-funded scheme similar to the one in Britain where the state allocates funds directly to NHIF to cover about 30 million Kenyans.

The panel, headed by veteran insurer James Wambugu, said the Sh500 monthly contribution was unworkable.

The team noted that the default rate is already high in that scheme and only 35 per cent of registered members consistently pay Sh500 every month.

Currently, only about 18 per cent of Kenyans are insured through NHIF.

Kenyans will be required to register to be able to access services. One must be a Kenyan, have a national ID and must be from the respective county.

To access NHIF Universal Health Coverage services, one will have to produce their UHC card. You can register for this initiative even if you are covered by other insurances.