Kenyans without National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) membership now risk missing key government services if a proposed Bill that seeks compulsory enrolment of every adult in the national insurer is passed by MPs.
If adopted, the NHIF will now be ranked highly, in the same band with other governmental documents such as Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) when in search of government services.
The move will automatically bar non-NHIF members from accessing State services such as registration of land titles, approval of building plans, transfer and licensing of motor vehicles, as well as the registration of business names and companies.
What’s more, inactive NHIF members will be blocked from underwriting of insurance policies, clearing and forwarding customs at the ports, power connections, supplying goods and services to the State, as well as opening accounts with financial institutions.
The change of practice demanding proof of NHIF membership ahead of seeking State services is aimed at driving compliance for every adult to get covered.
The new approach is an upgrade of the current state where only workers in the formal employment are compelled to join NHIF.
The National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill seeks to make it compulsory for every Kenyan above 18 years to contribute and be a member of the government-backed scheme.
They will therefore be required to pay Sh500 every month for outpatient and inpatient services, including maternity, dialysis, cancer treatment and surgery.
“We are looking at tying the active membership of NHIF to other services just like KRA PIN is for those going for things such as opening a business or seeking government tenders. This is one of the areas we are looking at once the law passes to encourage enforcement of the same,” NHIF chief executive officer Peter Kamunyo was quoted by Business Daily.
Dr Kamunyo said the changes would be introduced as subsidiary legislation to the NHIF Act, which is being amended in Parliament
The Bill seeks to review the current Act where contributions are optional in a bid to increase membership by at least 16 million people, with the goal of achieving health care coverage for everybody.
The Bill also seeks to axe NHIF monthly premiums for the low income earners, which will see them pay Kes 300 from the current Kes 500.
In July, NHIF disclosures showed that 5.7 million Kenyans had defaulted on monthly premiums attributable to massive job losses due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The NHIF says many Kenyans, especially from the private sector register, pay for a few months, and drop off once they have received costly services such as surgery. Those who earn a low income on the other hand lack medical insurance hence resort to paying hospital bills out of their pockets.