Experts debate how Kenya can achieve universal healthcare

Kenya has UHC .

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

To achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), stakeholders have been urged to build from basic primary healthcare.

Though the journey to achieving universal healthcare is not easy, Kenya is committed to delivering it, said Dr Elizabeth Wangia of the UHC secretariat in the Ministry of Health.

She spoke during a stakeholders’ breakfast meeting on the road to UHC hosted by financial services provider Zamara Group.

The private sector should focus on primary healthcare and help patients to take care of their health concerns, Dr Wangia added.

“There is no way to accelerate healthcare solutions other than digitization, which is a government priority. This is achievable through collaborations with private healthcare players,” she said.

“With regulatory support from the government, there is space for insurers to provide more affordable products that cater to the mass market by providing benefits beyond the essential benefits under UHC.”

Greater engagement

Greater engagement is needed at the grassroots to help develop healthcare systems that best address the needs of the population, said Samantha Weya, healthcare consulting lead at Zamara Actuaries.

“Our systems as industry players should be built with patients at the centre and focus on data-driven solutions to improve primary health challenges,” she said.

Enrolling Kenyans in the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is one of the main pressing challenges, said Wambugu Kariuki, head of beneficiary management at the insurer.

Mr Kariuki said 8.2 million people in the informal sector have enrolled in NHIF but less than two million, or less than 25 percent, are actively contributing.

“There is also the challenge of those who enrol only when they know they need it,” he added.

The NHIF (Amendment) Act 2022 arose from the 2021 NHIF Bill, which established the legislative foundation for Kenya to achieve UHC, becoming law in 2022.  

The programme will be run by NHIF, governed by the Ministry of Health and serve all Kenyan citizens regardless of their social status.