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NHIF shelves bid to sharply raise premiums for top earners

 NHIF shelves bid to sharply raise premiums for top earners

If the proposal were to go through, anyone earning Kes200,000 would have paid Kes3,400 to NHIF while those earning Kes500,000 contribute Kes8,500 every month.

Workers earning over Kes100,000 per month will not have to contribute more to their national health cover after the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) resolved to keep the rates unchanged.

The move follows a petition to Parliament opposing the planned increase of monthly contributions for top earners.

The government-backed health insurer had earlier published fresh regulations that indicated that workers getting over Kes100,000 monthly would be expected to part with 1.7 percent of their gross salary to the cover plan. At the moment, workers earning over Kes100,000 salary pay a fixed monthly contribution of Kes1,700 to the NHIF.

If the proposal were to go through, anyone earning Kes200,000 would have paid Kes3,400 to NHIF while those earning Kes500,000 contribute Kes8,500 every month.

Industry lobbies such as the Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF) opposed the planned upward revision of premiums, arguing that the contribution should hinge on a range of factors such as age, past medical history, occupation, and even smoking habits.

“Imposing a higher premium for people with higher income, therefore, overlooks this fact (premium for health insurance is not and must not be solely determined by the income of a contributor) and will unfairly deduct high and unjustified premiums for people with higher incomes without the assurance of better quality care,” KHF explained.

In September last year, lawmakers dismissed an amendment that would have seen them make an equal contribution to the NHIF for their employees.

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National Assembly held that the move would take away the intentions of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), one of the legacy project of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The plan could have seen workers continue paying the same amounts and employers matching in a structure modeled like the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

The new changes will be implemented once the NHIF gazettes regulations, which are before Parliament for review and will also guide the fresh law that called for compulsory membership, which is an upgrade of the previous scheme where only workers in the formal sector are compelled to join.

Informal workers had a choice to join or drop NHIF membership, with their monthly contributions set at Kes500. Their monthly fee remains unchanged. The new regulations have also dropped the Kes20,000 fine for adults who fail to register.

In December last year the Senate proposed changes to the NHIF (Amendment) Bill, after it scrapped the provision requiring every Kenyan above the age of 18 years to contribute to the national insurer, a move which give specifically the jobless Kenyans a reprieve.

The NHIF last reviewed its rates in April 2015 and is seeking to increase its income to boost coverage for diseases such as cancer and offer health insurance to all Kenyans.

It raised workers’ contributions from Kes320 to a graduated scale of between Kes500 and Kes1,700 per month based on pay.

The higher fees came with the introduction of outpatient cover for contributors and enhanced benefits for specialized treatment such as chemotherapy for cancer and kidney dialysis.

lochieng@maudhui.co.ke

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