KMPDU faults new social health insurance Act

Medics union

Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentist's Union (KMPDU) officials (from left), Dr Miskellah Dennis (Deputy Secretary General), Dr Davji Bhimji (Secretary General) and Dr Kizito Shisanya (chair of the legal committee), during a press briefing on the Social Health Insurance Act 2023 at the Union's headquarters along Kindaruma Lane Nairobi on November 9, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Dr Bhimji said the law will hurt Kenyans working in the informal sector, who have to pay their annual amount upfront.
  • Dr Bhimji also said that the government is tripping over its own feet by drafting regulations to govern the fund.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has faulted the new Social Health Insurance Act of 2023, saying it will make it difficult for Kenyans to access health care. 

In a meeting with journalists on Thursday, KMPDU Secretary-General Davji Bhimji said the Social Health Insurance Bill was passed into law without due consideration of the concerns they had raised.

These concerns included a sunset clause in the bill, which states that once the bill is passed, the fund will no longer provide any enhanced benefit scheme or package. 

This, Dr Bhimji said, means that the comprehensive medical cover enjoyed by all civil servants and county employees, including doctors, and their dependants will cease with immediate effect, thereby affecting the access to health care for all government employees and their dependants in the country. 

This, he said, was contrary to their initial proposal that the bill be passed after one year to allow employers to find an alternative.

Comprehensive medical cover

“All civil servants collectively decided in December 2011 to relinquish their monthly medical allowance of Sh3,500 for a comprehensive medical scheme to be administered by the NHIF. Every month, our members further mandatorily contribute the NHIF statutory deduction of Sh1,700. This totals Sh5,200 per month,” said Dr Bhimji.

“With the just enacted Social Health Insurance Act 2023, the mandatory statutory deductions will increase three fold from Sh1,700 to Sh5,000, plus the medical allowance of Sh3,500. Each of our members and other civil servants will contribute a total of Sh8,500 per month and Sh102,000 annually without the comprehensive medical cover, nor assured access to care,” he added.

This, he said, was in breach of a collective bargaining agreement they had signed with the government to provide comprehensive medical cover.

“With the new act, it means civil servants, and doctors included, are going to lose out enormously. There will be no comprehensive cover, hence out-of-pocket expenditure will increase. Many doctors will not be able to access the same care they offer in the hospitals. From our medical allowance and contributions, we are demanding a comprehensive medical cover now,” he said.

Dr Bhimji also said the law will hurt Kenyans working in the informal sector, who have to pay their annual amount upfront, unlike those in formal employment who pay their contributions monthly.

Primary health care fund

“Why can’t they have the option of contributing monthly like everyone else? The law further takes away their right to health care already paid for by their taxes if they don’t pay up on time plus a two per cent fine,” Dr Bhimji said.

Dr Bhimji also said that the government is tripping over its own feet by drafting regulations to govern the fund, even before a social health authority board is put in place.

The regulations, which are supposed to be made with the involvement of the board, have also been made without the input of the Council of Governors. 

He also said that money appropriated by Parliament, which was supposed to be paid into the primary health care fund, should be disbursed to the respective counties by the Commission of Revenue Allocation instead of the Social Health Authority. Failure to do so, he said, would undermine devolution. 

On October 19, President William Ruto signed into law four UHC bills (the Primary Health Care Bill, Facility Improvement Financing Bill, Digital Health Bill, and the Social Health Insurance Bill) as part of efforts to achieve universal health coverage.