Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to “ruthlessly” fight corruption in the health sector and urged lawmakers to support the initiative instead of engaging in debates.
Speaking in Mombasa during the launch of biometric registration for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) beneficiaries, Mr. Kenyatta said anyone who steals from the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) or abuses its processes will face the full force of the law.
“I urge the NHIF to ensure the precious funds committed to its custody by subscribers and supporters are utilised with utmost transparency and accountability,” Mr. Kenyatta said.
The UHC beneficiaries will be under the NHIF.
He directed the ministry and the Attorney-General to speed up legislation that will codify reforms in law and foster the sustainability of the fund.
President Kenyatta urged lawmakers to support the initiative instead of engaging in debates.
“I know we have the ability to do this if we work together. I want to urge our MPs not to delay us through unnecessary debates. We know where we want to go,” he said.
“Our people deserve and want it. We ask you to partner with us. This is not the time to show prowess in debate.”
He added huge medical bills have driven many households into destitution.
“We now have an opportunity to fix the problem once and for all. If those mandated to handle these funds do not do so with care and caution, they will regret it for the rest of their lives,” he said.
President Kenyatta added that his administration would ring-fence health funds to attain UHC, citing the success story of the Ministry of Education.
He said implementing the programme would focus on reforms at NHIF.
“We will ensure the country has a national social health insurer that is able to meet the needs of Kenyans,” he said.
The Ministry of Health and the Attorney-General will establish a mandatory UHC scheme to be managed by the NHIF and regulated by Afya House.
It is expected to act as the scheme for people resident in Kenya and adopt the essential health benefits package, which has been completed.
Mr. Kenyatta said it would enable Kenyans to gain access to essential health services at a low cost.
The package covers outpatient and inpatient services, communicable and non-communicable disease management, maternity, dialysis, radiology, mental health, minor and major surgery, substance abuse rehabilitation, emergency services and cancer treatment, and others at an annual cost of Sh6,000 per family.
“Initially, the government will provide health insurance cover to a million vulnerable households,” he said.
Identifying the families by the Health and Labour and Social Protection ministries and county governments is expected to begin soon.
“As Kenya and the world grapple with coronavirus, today’s launch represents a new frontier in our nation’s fight against emerging and long-standing healthcare threats. It also shows the fruitful and dynamic cooperation between the two tiers of government on the shared mandate of health care services,” he said.
President Kenyatta said every Kenyan has the right to the highest attainable standards of health and the right to health care services, including emergency treatment.
“We have made significant improvements in our health systems. However, access to health care is still a challenge for many,” he said.
He cited a 2018 report which said more than a million Kenyans are impoverished due to high expenditure on health.
“Recognising these unfortunate circumstances, we, have prioritised UHC and developed a comprehensive plan to progressively roll it out,” he said.
“We began the journey with the waiver of user fees at lower-level hospitals, then introduced several State-sponsored insurance programmes for the elderly, vulnerable children, people living with severe disability, pregnant women, secondary school learners, and others.”
Community health units
Mr. Kenyatta added that the UHC pilot phase in four counties led to an increase in the utilisation of health services, with more than 1.6 million additional hospital visits made during the 12-month period.
Key achievements of the phase include the establishment of 208 community health units, staffed by 7,700 health volunteers, he said.
“The volunteers attended to more than two million clients, many of whom were served in their homes. Further, there was the recruitment of 752 health workers to narrow existing gaps.”
He said important lessons were learned during the UHC pilot phase.
The biometric registration of the poor households will ensure beneficiaries are identified when they visit hospitals and NHIF branches.
“An e-claims system will be used to improve efficiency and curb fraud and abuse, challenges we must address. Past initiatives to improve healthcare have not been successful because of such problems,” he said.
The President said Kenyans informed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force of their wish to see health care services improved.
“The BBI proposes fundamental and innovative solutions to the health quagmire that Kenya has faced for years,” he said.