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Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health Susan Nakhumicha during a public participation session with media on January 26, 2024. PHOTO | POOL


1-2-3... Win for polygamous men in new health cover

Polygamous men will start getting medical cover for all their wives and declared children at no extra cost in a departure from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) rules that cover one spouse and five children.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha says the changes will be under the Social Health Authority’s (SHA) three funds: Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF), the Primary Healthcare Fund, and the Emergency, Critical and Chronic Fund that are set to replace the NHIF from July.

The arrangement will be a win for polygamous families that had left part of their members to depend on the more expensive out-of-pocket medical expenses.

“I must acknowledge, as a woman reading through some of the feedback, my most favourite was one where men were asking (what happens) if they have more than one wife. If I was allowed to respond as a wife, I would say No to others (women),” said Ms Nakhumicha during last week’s validation workshop on healthcare insurance regulations.

“But as a CS for health and we are saying we don’t want to leave anyone behind, we are going to take care of all households as requested by the feedback from the public.”

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data from the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census showed three percent or 497,125 of women aged 12 years and above were in polygamous marriages. The same data showed 2.8 percent or about 446,230 men aged 12 years and above were in polygamy.

The policy change will see such families enjoy the medical cover as the State prepares for the new scheme that will see Kenyans part with 2.75 percent of their gross monthly income but a minimum of Sh300.

Under the NHIF, salaried people pay between Sh150 and Sh1,700 depending on their income while those in informal employment pay Sh500 a month.

The move to recognise multiple wives comes a decade after the fourth President, Uhuru Kenyatta, signed into law a marriage Bill legalising polygamy. The law allowed men to have more wives without consulting existing wife.

The NHIF rules cover one spouse and a maximum five children while most private insurance firms recognise principal members, a spouse and up to four children, but cover additional beneficiaries at an extra premium.

The closest NHIF came to this was when it in 2022 published draft regulations allowing men to get medical cover for multiple wives at an extra Sh500 on each additional spouse per month. The draft rules, however, never proceeded to the approval stage.

The Ministry of Health last Monday led stakeholders in the national validation workshop on the draft regulations for the Social Health Insurance Act 2023 and the draft regulatory impact statement.

The passage of the two drafts is supposed to clear the way for enhanced social health insurance premiums with a target of achieving the universal healthcare dream of affordable and quality care.

Ms Nakhumicha said the draft regulations will be presented to Parliament’s Committee on Delegated Legislation for tabling in the House. The regulations will then be taken to the office of the Attorney-General for gazettement.

The State plans to roll out the registration of members for SHA within this month, with the exercise expected to run up to June. Thereafter, Ms Nakhumicha said, members will start contributing while access to the benefits will start in July.