The signing of four healthcare Bills into law by president William Ruto at State House, Nairobi yesterday has attracted mixed reactions with some terming the move as untimely and burdensome amid high cost of living and proposed increased income deductions towards National Social Health Insurance Fund.
Others contend that this shift will now see Kenyans enjoy quality, affordable and accessible health care.
The new laws now pave way for the abolition of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to the establishment of the National Social Health Insurance Fund.
The bills signed into law by president Ruto will usher a paradigm shift in the legal and institutional framework for healthcare in Kenya.
President Ruto said the implementation and attainment of Universal Health Coverage is within reach for all Kenyans.
The president also signed into law the Digital Health Act 2023, the Facility Improvement Financing Act 2023, and the New Social Health Insurance Act 2023 that will replace the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
In its place, the Primary Health Care Fund, Social Health Insurance Fund and the Emergency, Chronic and Critical Illness Fund will be established.
President Ruto exuded confidence that with the foundation set through these laws the Universal Health Coverage will succeed.
He said that with an improved health care system, Kenyans will no longer be rendered destitute while in pursuit of treatment as has been the case for millions.
Should Parliament approve the regulations that will anchor the new laws, formal workers should expect to contribute 2.75 per cent of their gross monthly pay to a Social Health Insurance Fund to finance the new UHC plan.
Contributions for Kenyans in the formal sector will be pegged as 2.75 per cent of monthly pay while those for the informal sector will be Sh500.
The national and county governments will pay contributions for needy Kenyans. Contribution to the fund will be mandatory for all adults seeking government services.
The new laws also will make it compulsory for all foreigners visiting the country for more than 12 months to enlist and contribute to the social health insurance scheme.
Visitors coming into the country for less than a year will need to buy travel health insurance, which must be recognised under Kenyan insurance laws and regulations.
To shield the scheme from corruption, those suspected of defrauding the health insurance scheme, through false statements risk being jailed for five years or fined Sh1million or both.
The current National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is expected to be fully wound up by October 19, 2024, and it will transfer all the cash balances to the Social Health Insurance Fund.
The plan is critical in helping Kenya move closer to the globally accepted ratio of health access as set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
But the plan presents one of the biggest tests to Ruto’s healthcare promise given the poor state and uneven distribution of the health facilities in addition to the shortage of healthcare workers, estimated to be hundreds of thousands.
A report by WHO shows that Kenya has 13 doctors, nurses, and midwives for every 10,000 people, which is below WHO’s standard of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people.