President Uhuru Kenyatta has suspended the implementation of controversial National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) regulations that had tripled costs for new members.
The President in a televised address from State House Mombasa said on Tuesday that the rules, which had set in on January 1 and caused public outcry, will require further consultations.
“Given my administration’s commitment to provide affordable health I am today directing the Ministry of Health to immediately halt the implementation of this proposals to allow for further consultations,” he said.
The news offers reprieve to the many voluntary contributors who were staring at hefty fines and possible lock-out from the scheme.
NHIF had ordered that new members pay Sh6,000 and wait for three months before becoming eligible for the cover. This is in contrast with the existing rules of paying Sh1,500 and accessing the cover within two months.
The new rules were likely to to slow down the uptake of the NHIF scheme, which is a key plank of Kenya’s plan to achieve universal health coverage under President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) on Sunday called for the suspension of the rules as so did the Parliamentary Health Committee chairperson Sabina Chege. They both cited lack of consultation and the risk of locking out many families from the cover.
NHIF had over 7.65 million principal contributors paying premiums of Sh32.9 billion in the year ended June 2018. Informal sector contributors have been rising at a faster rate since 2013/2014 to close the gap with formal sector members.
While in 2013/2014 the informal sector contributors were half that of those from formal sector, the gap has been narrowed to less than 10 percent.
In 2017/2018, membership from the formal sector rose by 4.3 per cent to four million compared with a 23.3 per cent rise in the informal sector to 3.62 million.