When Mr Siadi Rohoy Maalim, 59, was diagnosed with kidney stones, his family was thrown into confusion because their income could not allow them to pay the medical bill of the man whose health was rapidly failing.
His family organised a fundraiser and the money collected only settled his previous bills and more was needed for surgery as recommended by doctors at Mandera County Referral Hospital.
The family needed at least Sh200,000 for the surgery that had been scheduled at a private facility in the town.
“I am a poor man depending on menial jobs to feed my family of nine. I could not afford their medical care until my area chief informed me of a plan by our constituency office on medical insurance,” he says.
Mr Maalim says he was registered to benefit from the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) through the Mandera East National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).
NHIF settled Mr Maalim’s medical bill and he continues to receive outpatient services at a designated hospital in Mandera.
“This is a good idea and I am enjoying services by the NHIF. I will live longer just because of this good venture,” he says amid laughter.
Possible causes of kidney stones include drinking too little water, obesity and eating food with too much salt or sugar.
Just like Mr Maalim, Ms Fatuma Abdullahi Ibrahim, 60, was successfully operated on and her goitre condition managed. Goitre is caused by a deficiency of iodine, which is essential in helping the thyroid produce hormones.
Treatment of goitre depends on the size and condition of the swelling and symptoms associated with it.
“I was so sick that I could not swallow anything solid. My children are unemployed and this complicated my medical care, because I could not pay the bills,” she says, adding that she depended on well-wishers every time the condition needed medical attention.
“NG-CDF registered me as a beneficiary of NHIF and I underwent surgery. My condition has improved despite depending on drugs, which I get using the card,” she explains.
NHIF paid Sh180,000 for her condition at a private facility in Mandera town.
At least 2,500 households in his constituency are registered for NHIF.
Emulated this programme
Mandera East MP Omar Maalim says he was overwhelmed by medical-bill fundraisers and thought of starting the mass registration for the medical fund.
“It was not easy being called for fundraising for medical bills of my constituents almost every weekend. The NG-CDF office agreed to register residents who could not afford medical bills and in Parliament, we changed the law to allow the kitty to partner with NHIF,” Mr Maalim said.
Hassan Ali, a 45-year-old father of seven, says he would not be alive today if he had not registered for a health insurance scheme.
Mr Ali has cancer of the oesophagus.
He is undergoing a five-week chemotherapy and radiotherapy course at Mandera County Referral Hospital, the county’s largest health facility.
NHIF Mandera branch manager Ahmed Yakub Issack said the insurance scheme offered services to many patients with chronic diseases in the county.
NG-CDF Mandera East has pumped Sh15 million into NHIF to cover the health of 2,500 households and their dependents for two years.
“This is about boosting Universal Health Coverage (UHC) that already has 21,000 households in Mandera County. It will be good if other area MPs emulated this programme,” Mr Issack said.
Through the Mandera East NG-CDF, at least five patients are undergoing chemotherapy and dialysis paid for through NHIF.
NHIF also pays Sh76,000 every month for patients undergoing dialysis at Mandera County Referral Hospital.
“We are asking members who have been registered to add their dependents so that together they can enjoy these services,” Mr Issack said.
A CT scan at Mandera Referral costs Sh8,000 every visit and beneficiaries have been urged to utilise the service.
Mandera is among counties with the highest poverty index, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 100 million people globally are pushed into poverty and 150 million suffer "financial catastrophe" by spending their money directly on healthcare.
To help guard against this, national governments launched universal health insurance schemes.