MPs wary over President Ruto health insurance’s radical purge


Kenyans registering for NHIF at Dagoretti Deputy County Commissioner’s offices in Nairobi in February 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Members of parliament have accused President William Ruto’s administration of a plot to sack staff at the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) once a new law is enacted.

The lawmakers drawn from the bicameral House, argue that the move to hurriedly pass the Social Insurance Health Fund (SHIF) to replace NHIF will see over 1,000 staff sent packing.

“On the NHIF changes, T.J Kajwang (Ruaraka) pleaded with our colleagues that this new law would result in the sacking of 1,800 people, but they refused. They have passed the Bill and if the president signs them into law, all those working there are going to be sacked,” warned Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo.

She spoke in her constituency days after a heated debate in the National Assembly on the controversial Social Insurance Health Fund Bill and Digital Health Bill, 2023.

In the Senate, political differences played out over consideration of the Facilities Improvement Financing Bill, 2023 and the Primary Health Care Bill seeking to help in implementing Kenya Kwanza’s pledge on Universal Healthcare Coverage.

The MPs have taken issue with Ruto’s radical changes to the healthcare plan as contained in the SHIF Bill that they want to be addressed before the Bill is enacted into law to repeal the NHIF Act.

Outsourcing of private entities to manage claims, denial of services in public offices if one is not registered in the new health scheme and transition of the staff of the National Health Insurance Health (NHIF) to the new entity is forming the core of MPs concerns to the new health plan by the government.

The Social Health Insurance Bill sailed through the third reading on Wednesday with MPs expected to consider various amendments next week. If passed, the Bill will be taken to the Senate for concurrence before being presented to President Ruto for assent.

During the debate on the Bill, Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wa said while nobody will lose their jobs with the enactment of the Bill, not all current staff working at NHIF will work at the new body.

Mr Ichung’wa said the current staff at NHIF will only serve for a transition period of one year, then others will be re-deployed to other agencies and others will be allowed to retire should they choose that option.

However, Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said priority should be given to staff at the NHIF while transiting to the new outfit.

“Where do you take these people that have been working at NHIF, they are also Kenyans, have worked well, served the country and should be considered,” Mr Mohammed said.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng said the fate of the employees cannot be left in the hands of a new board that already has instructions to clean out the place.

“We cannot declare workers at NHIF guilty, none has been charged or declared unfit. They must be given a fair hearing before we ask them to go because none have been charged with corruption,” Mr Ochieng said.

The NHIF in its submissions to the Committee of health proposed that transitioning to the new outfit should not exceed two years rather than the one year being proposed by the MPs.

The fund told the committee that the new body should review the qualifications of the current NHIF staff and retain those found competent and qualified.

Seme MP James Nyikal said the current staff at NHIF should be carried over to the new body and later allow the new board to start recruiting new staff.

“You cannot take all Kenyans at NHIF and declare them jobless just because of a new Bill. Let’s go by the norm and let these people be taken in and recruitment done later,” Dr Nyikal said.

He is also opposed to outsourcing of the claims service from the private sector and expressed optimism that the House will make amendments to the provision.

Lagdera MP Abdikadir Mohamed claimed that there is anxiety among the NHIF over the framing of the transition clause in the Bill, warning the matter should be handled in accordance with labour laws.

Mr Mohamed also pointed out that the Bill was no different from the current NHIF one as both the contributors and medical providers remain the same.

“The Bill doesn’t tell us how to fight corruption or how to deal with it, but only how to increase the number of contributors,” Mr Mohamed said.

Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo said it is unconstitutional to force Kenyans to deny services just because they have not provided proof of registration to the social health scheme.

Under the Primary Health Care Bill, the government seeks to hire 100,000 community health promoters whose roles shall include health education and promotion, disease prevention and control and family health services.