President William Ruto

President William Ruto flanked by his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua (right) and Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha during the Presidential assent of the Universal Health Coverage Bills at State House, Nairobi on October 19, 2023.

| Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Stop private healthcare for officials

The reorganisation of the National Health Insurance Fund (to Social Health Insurance Fund) is commendable, and this is a big, but it is full of hypocrisy.

NHIF is funded by Kenyans for Kenyans. The poor, who cannot afford to contribute to the fund, have their health insurance subsidised. Then we have senior officials in government going to private hospitals on public funds.

That should never be the case. Taxpayers should not fund private medicare for senior government officials as the poor are forced into sub-standard and ill-funded and -equipped public hospitals.

Politicians in Kenya have made it their birth right to use taxpayers’ money to finance their lavish lifestyles and pay for private healthcare and education for their children.

On the latter, the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) education system, again forced onto the children of the poor, has left them being made a mockery of by their teachers, who ask them to undertake uninspiring and stupefying exercises in the name of education.

No child of a Kenyan minister will be caught dead doing some of the silly things we see the children attending public schools being made to undertake in CBC programmes.

I digress. But the point I am making here is that no Kenyan, or Kenyan child, should have to end up with scraps when it comes to funding in healthcare and education while the leaders and their children live a taxpayer-funded lavish lifestyle.

Private lifestyles for politicians, in particular, that is funded by the taxpayers has made the beneficiaries feel so entitled and dictatorial in the manner in which they run counties, for instance.

Many county governors believe the only way they can run public healthcare is by sacking healthcare officials and/or not paying them.

The irony here is that these officials who deplete resources from public hospitals in terms of personnel and material are the same lot that end up using taxpayers’ money to access private healthcare.

I have said many times—and I repeat it once more—that there is no way a politician who uses private healthcare and takes their children to private schools will ever understand the pain suffered by voters left to use the public facilities with poor standards.

They should never be on the policymaking table for the poor on a private ticket. Until governors, cabinet secretaries and other top officials can walk in the shoes of the poor, they should not be deciding for them.

Abolishment of private insurance

I have called for the abolishment of private insurance for ministers before and make the same plea again.

Many an executive order has been issued on different matters, some even mundane. So, why is it so difficult to issue an executive order that will force public workers, including ministers, to use public healthcare facilities?

President William Ruto recently made an order to reduce the budget on overseas travel to save taxpayers' money.

The same rule can be used to take away the funding of private healthcare for ministers and other senior government officials and use the money to support creaking public health services. It is no-brainier.

I challenge the President to issue the relevant executive order to stop abuse of taxpayers funds by officials who believe going to private hospitals on Kenyans’ money is their royal entitlement. They are paid handsomely and should be paying for their private health insurance from the pocket.

The only way to give legitimacy to the reorganisation of the national health insurance is by making all public officials lead by example and use the public healthcare facilities. That will save the public money that is going to hefty private health insurance for government officials,.Otherwise, the exercise will just be like many others used to pull wool over the eyes of the taxpayers.

It is abuse of power for government officials to dig deep into the taxpayers’ purse to fund their private lifestyles.

There is no justification for the government to pay private insurance for some influential Kenyans and at the same time pretend they care enough to support Shif for the poor.

I would not want to see another Kenyan humiliated by a minister on a private health insurance as I saw CS Ababu Namwamba humiliate Mambo Mbotela—by donating towards his healthcare bill.

If public hospitals were well funded and -resourced, no Kenyan would have to beg to foot medical bills in the first place or sell their home to save the life of a loved one in hospital.

It is, therefore, time the government ended its relationship with private hospitals paid for by the taxpayers and private insurance bills.

That money could be used for the benefit of all Kenyans’ health not just politicians and senior public officials.

Reorganisation of NHIF is not just about increasing members’ contributions but also the government saving the taxpayers the huge amounts of money being unjustifiably spent on government officials.

End the healthcare hypocrisy!

- Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected]. @kdiguyo