19.5 million Kenyans to be on universal health coverage by 2022

NHIF building

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) building in Nairobi in this picture taken on November 16, 2020.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Government moving towards minimum coverage target of over 80 percent under the UHC programme. 
  • NHIF targeting a pool of 5.1 million poor and vulnerable households in the country for coverage.

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is aiming to enroll at least 19.5 million Kenyans to the universal health coverage (UHC) programme by the end of 2022.

This as the government moves towards the minimum coverage target of over 80 percent under the UHC programme. 

Currently, NHIF has 22.5 million beneficiaries covering 40 percent of adults above 18 years and above, with 9.5 million of the beneficiaries being principal members.

NHIF Universal Health Scheme Manager Mr Wambugu Kariuki said the government has identified a pool of 5.1 million poor and vulnerable households in the country who are being targeted for the coverage.

He said the government is prioritising the poor and vulnerable households through payment of premiums to NHIF, among other interventions.

The targeted households, Mr Kariuki explained, are those individuals who if told to contribute towards a medical cover, they will not be able to as that is not their priority with most of them struggling even to put food on the table.

“All the households that have been identifies will be enrolled by the national government to NHIF enabling them to enjoy premium coverage by NHIF. So the target is about 20 million poor and vulnerable individuals considering that the average size of a household in Kenya is 4 people,” said Mr Kariuki.

He was speaking on Friday during a UHC webinar by Health NGOs Network (HENNET), an umbrella organisation of health civil societies in Kenya, to mark the World UHC Day.

Vulnerable households

On her part, HENNET CEO Dr Mercy Onsando said Kenyans are looking at UHC that is equitable and right-based where everyone is able to benefit without being left behind.

“Kenyans are looking at a situation where they are able to participate giving inputs as well as stressing on accountability where promises that are made are taken care of,” said Dr Onsando. 

Mr Kariuki pointed out that currently, only one million or 20 percent, have been identified for enrolment under the scheme, where the national government has pumped in Sh6 billion for the service.

However, the government is set to progressively scale up the services by partnering with different development partners and county governments this as Kenya gears towards achieving the minimum 80 percent enrolment of the more than 48 million Kenyans into the UHC programme.

Mr Kariuki explained that already 20 county governments have identified the poor and vulnerable households and have been able to enroll them into the scheme.

He said that since the UHC pilot programme was rolled out in 2018 in four counties of Kisumu, Machakos, Nyeri and Isiolo, the scheme has been rolled out to most counties across the country in bits although the journey to scale it up in its entirety to the 47 counties is on.

At the end of the pilot scheme in December, 2019, the then Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the programmme had expanded health services to a population of 3.2 million Kenyans, in a period of 12 months, providing the ministry and county governments with key lessons to roll it out to the rest of the country.

“Our aim is to expand the coverage to all the counties by entering into inter-governmental partnerships. Our aim is to ensure that every Kenyan is able to access health services without having to incur out of pocket expenditure,” he said.