KENYA – In a significant step towards achieving Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC), Kenyans are on the brink of receiving comprehensive information about their contributions to the newly established Social Health Authority (SHA).
This development follows the enactment of three bills governing UHC by President William Ruto, signaling a transformative shift in Kenya’s healthcare landscape.
The Health Cabinet Secretary, Susan Nakhumicha, has played a pivotal role in this transformative journey, designating the effective date of the Social Health Insurance Act as November 22, 2023.
A team of experts, meticulously working on regulations to oversee the implementation of the scheme, is set to present a detailed report on Monday next week.
This expert team, which includes officials from the Ministry of Health, aims to provide clarity not only on the contribution amounts but also on the finer details of how the laws will be implemented.
President Ruto has appointed a board to oversee SHA, with Dr. Timothy Olweny, the current Secretary General of the Kenya Association of Private Hospitals, appointed as the chairperson.
This esteemed board, which includes Francis Atwoli, Cotu Secretary General, Dr. Gichuki Kariuki, and Jacinta Mutego, will oversee the implementation of crucial funds: The Primary Health Fund, Social Health Insurance Fund, and Emergency, Chronic, and Critical Illness Fund.
Each of these funds has a specific mandate, collectively contributing to the enhancement of healthcare services in Kenya.
The Primary Health Care Fund, for instance, is designated to support preventive and promotive primary care services at the community, dispensary, and health centre levels.
The transition from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to SHA will take place over 12 months. Under the Social Health Insurance Act, all Kenyans are required to register as members of the Social Health Insurance Fund to support the UHC program.
Non-compliance, including the failure to remit contributions, may result in individuals being denied government services, marking a significant policy shift.
While the move to deny services to those not paying for the medical cover has faced some criticism, proponents argue that offering quality healthcare services will naturally attract enrollment.
The ongoing deliberations by the regulation appointed by CS Nakhumicha are actively addressing the tariffs to the fund, a crucial aspect that will determine the financial commitment expected from citizens.
Simultaneously, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), an institution with a 57-year history, has assured its 15.4 million members of the safety of their contributions during the transition to the new Social Health Authority.
The NHIF collected a substantial Sh61.53 billion (US$405.4 million) in the 2021/2022 financial year, underlining its significance in the healthcare sector.
Elijah Wachira, the Chief Executive Officer of NHIF, recently appeared before the National Assembly’s Public Investments Committee to address concerns raised by the Auditor General’s report for the financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
Wachira reassured the committee that the NHIF staff is well-prepared for the transition and is working diligently to address any issues.
The NHIF is actively documenting its properties, liabilities, and assets, which will be seamlessly handed over to the new authority.
In the face of audit queries regarding NHIF’s financial decisions, including loans advanced to healthcare facilities and land acquisitions, Wachira emphasized the organization’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
This commitment is particularly crucial as the new Social Health Authority takes shape, aiming to address the challenges that may have affected the national insurer in the past while expanding health insurance coverage.