William Ruto
Kenya's fifth President Dr William Ruto has promised to undertake a number of reforms in the national health insurer, NHIF, in a bid to streamline the healthcare sector.

Kenyans could soon see their National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) go up after President William Ruto backed a graduated raise in premiums as he seeks to fund the universal health plan.

In his inaugural speech shortly after being sworn in as Kenya’s fifth President, Dr Ruto said his administration will undertake a number of reforms in the NHIF in a bid to streamline the healthcare sector.

Among the expected changes include having top earners pay higher monthly premiums to the NHIF, a proposal that was strongly opposed by the 12th Parliament.

In his inaugural speech on September 13, Dr Ruto said that contribution to the health fund will be based on an individual’s income, meaning highly paid employees will have to pay a higher premium to the NHIF, a move he says is aimed at increasing the funding pool of the scheme.

“We shall reform the National Health Insurance Fund to make it a social health insurance provider, improve procurement of medical supplies, deploy an integrated state-of-the-art health information system and most importantly, provide adequate human resources at all levels. Contributions will now graduate and will now be based on income.”

Early this year, NHIF had proposed that contributions of workers earning more than Kes100,000 be calculated as 1.7 percent of their monthly pay.

Read also: NHIF shelves bid to sharply raise premiums for top earners

However, three weeks ago, the government-backed health insurer changed its tune, resolving to shelve the bid of raising the premiums for the top earners following a petition to Parliament that opposed the move.

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

The federation, however, appears to have changed position with KHF chairperson Dr Kanyenje Gakombe and CEO Dr Anastasia Nyalita saying efforts to streamline the operations of key health sector delivery agencies will facilitate far-reaching reforms for the benefit of all healthcare stakeholders.

KHF said Dr Ruto’s commitments will provide motivation to transform healthcare agencies such as NHIF, and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) which have recently commenced on commendable reform efforts.

Dr Nyalita said integration of information systems will play a key role in advancing the national management efforts by providing quality, visibility and traceable datasets, as well as assisting in providing health service delivery integrity at the health commodities procurement, finance, quality assurance, and record management levels.

“KHF welcomes the commitment to reform healthcare financing and provision. Reforms at the NHIF, KEMSA and integration of robust health information technology systems as promised by President Ruto is sweet music to our ears,” Dr Gakombe said.

Dr Nyalita promised that at KHF, they shall be at hand to support the reform endeavors and provide technical support as necessary since the delivery of quality healthcare service remains their driving force as a Federation.

Currently, workers earning over Kes100,000 pay a fixed monthly contribution of Kes1,700 to the NHIF.

Should the reforms be implemented, workers earning more than Kes200,000 will contribute Kes3,400 while those earning Kes500,000 will have their contribution increase five times to Kes8,500 per month.

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