‘Rutocare’: What the new health laws mean for you

Ruto Health Laws

President William Ruto affixes the public seal during the assent of the Universal Health Coverage Bills as his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua, Health CS Susan Nakhumicha (right), Attorney General Justin Muturi (2nd right), and other stakeholders watch at State House, Nairobi on October 19, 2023. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • All Kenyans will have the right to access affordable healthcare regardless of their social status, age or the illness they suffer from after the President assented to four new laws.

All Kenyans will have the right to access affordable healthcare regardless of their social status, age or illness.

This is in a bid to rekindle the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) dream — for the third time.

President William Ruto yesterday assented to new laws that his government says will revolutionise the health sector and be the final push in the UHC journey.

“Our national health journey has been long and sometimes painful. Most Kenyans have insisted that healthcare is the public service they most want. Today, we have taken a significant step towards achieving universal health coverage for all,” said President Ruto.

The Bills assented to by the President are the Social Health Insurance Bill, Digital Health Bill, Primary Healthcare Bill, and the Facility Improvement Financing Bill, passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Dr Meshack Ndirangu, Country Director for Amref Health Africa, told the ‘Nation’ yesterday that UHC will ensure that everyone, wherever they are and whenever they are sick, will be able to access affordable healthcare as provided for in the new legislation.

He explained that under the new Social Health Insurance Act, which has three financing models, people with chronic illnesses will have no reason to dig deep into their pockets to pay for crippling medical bills.

However, the Emergency and Chronic Diseases Fund will kick in when patients have exhausted their mandatory social health insurance coverage. This fund will also cover emergency treatment.

“We know that many Kenyans become destitute when family members get cancer or have an accident; this will be a thing of the past,” said Dr Ruto yesterday.

It is the Social Health Insurance Fund that will compel Kenyans to register in order to access health services.

While the regulations on how much money Kenyans will be expected to contribute are yet to be determined, sources say Kenyans could pay a maximum of Sh5,000 and a minimum of Sh300, depending on how much they earn.

However, this is not final and depends on the next steps the government will take.

“Whatever amount is agreed, people who earn more will give more but not too much. I don't think it will be punitive, but it will be about fairness. If someone cannot fully afford to pay, there will be mechanisms for that,” said Dr Ndirangu.

The government has been drumming up support for preventive rather than curative healthcare in the country.

Relying on community health promoters (CHPs), whose services will be officially launched in the country today, the government seeks to reach every Kenyan and preach the gospel of disease prevention.

President Ruto announced that the national government and counties will share responsibility for paying the 100,000 CHPs, each of whom will be responsible for 100 households.

The preventive health approach has been included in the new Primary Health Care Fund, which will have a blended funding structure that will allow the government to raise funds from other stakeholders, put them in one basket, but for the same cause.

These funds will replace the existing National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

Dr Daniel Mwai, a health economist and one of the President’s advisers, said the biggest benefit of the new laws is that there will be no exclusion of people when it comes to access to health care.

“One thing that Kenyans should know is that there will be something called payment by tally. This means that if a certain amount has been set for a certain condition, then regardless of which hospital you go to, you will be treated with a standard amount,” he explained.

“The new law will get rid of small payments, such as paying for beds and other hospital equipment, as long as you use the social health insurance fund. People will pay for their conditions,” he added.

The country has had a huge data gap over the years, which Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said technology will help to close.

Under the Digital Health Act, Ms Nakhumicha said the government will now collect real-time data and use it to inform key decisions for the health sector.

“We are now assured that we will create a superhighway that all facilities will be connected to,” she said.

Medical records

This means that no Kenyan will be expected to use analogue methods such as carrying hospital books to facilities for their medical records. Irrespective of the district where they seek treatment, they will be able to access their medical records at the click of a button.

The Facilities Improvement Financing Bill, now a law, will ensure that hospitals are self-sustaining with the money they earn from their activities.

Dr Mwai explained that after devolution, most facilities lost money along the way because some of it was channelled to the counties.

“In the new law, as long as public money is received in a facility, it will be used in that facility,” he said.

Mr George Gibore, secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, said the new laws would also help health workers, most of whom do not have formal employment.

“The four Bills that have been passed will ensure support for the funding system at the lower levels of hospitals where most clinical officers work,” he said.

“This will help us get the drugs we need when we need them, and our laboratories will function optimally. Our patients who come for services will not go back without help,” he added.

Health CS Nakhumicha promised that the regulations would be ready in two weeks.