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What they are not telling you about NHIF

It is very true that Kenya does not have a very clear policy when it comes to making quality healthcare accessible to all Kenyans so when many of us heard about the new NHIF scheme we were filled with joy hoping that finally we will be able to access quality service from any hospital.

This seemed like a very good idea when we were first informed about this two years ago but due to various hick-ups these plans were shelved until early this year when the NHIF started implementing this scheme with civil servants and teachers.

For a long time the debate has been about the extra contributions that workers will be forced to pay without any or very limited mention of the enhanced services that they would be able to access – and that is what this discussions should be all about. The scheme in itself was a very good idea but just like it happens with any noble idea, some very cunning Kenyans saw this as an opportunity to cash in.

The question we should be asking is why private institutions with very few branch networks were awarded huge sums of money on this scheme at the expense of improving public hospitals and dispensaries which by any standards were already better equipped than these clinics?

As much as we were excited about being able to access out-patient care and and diagnostic services, we did not stop to interrogate the capacity of these private institutions to offer such services like CT scan, MRI, Dialysis or even X-rays. This is where the scam is. Private clinics were allocated funds for expansion instead of improving infrastructure in public hospitals that have an even wider branch networks.

Another question we should be asking ourselves is, what next after these plans have been shelved? The ordinary Kenyan who has no access to private medical insurance (and this counts for most of us) should now ask the government to play its part in ensuring that we all access quality medical care. The plan that the NHIF had in itself is not a bad one but the approach with which it was implemented raised more questions than answers.

We still need an affordable and practical plan for health insurance and I don’t see any actionable plan that is already in place other that what NHIF already had. What we now need to do is implement it in a more transparent and satisfactory manner that would mean that our public hospitals will be better equipped and given first priority when it comes to the scheme. It is also important not to lock out private hospitals as they have for a long time assisted in offering quality services but that should only apply to properly accredited private and mission hospitals who have the capacity to offer the required services and the money allocated to them should only be used to improve their equipments but not to set up new units as was the case with Meridian and Clinix. If possible the pilot implementation of this program should be done with hospitals that NHIF were already working with before the new plan came into place and any new hospital should go through a rigorous vetting process.

Let us however not forget that we still need a health insurance policy that will ensure that every Kenyan has access to quality healthcare and this is long overdue.



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