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Why State has postponed SHIF deductions to October

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Health CS Susan Nakhumicha during the launch of the Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience Programme for Eastern and Southern Africa. BONFACE BOGITA
Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation

The government has postponed the planned shift to the new Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) to October 1, 2024, amid challenges with the digital platform designed to support contributions and registration.

This postponement came a week after a transition committee on the Social Health Authority (SHA)—the agency created to run the SHIF and replace the present National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF)—warned in a report that a pilot run on the ICT system showed it wasn’t ready for the big shift on July 1 as earlier gazetted by Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha.

“ICT SHA system was piloted in Marsabit; a dry run revealed that the new system was not ready and challenges are being addressed and a second repeat dry run that encompasses proxy mean testing may be done thereafter,” the committee said in a report following a meeting on Friday, June 21, 2024.

“The ICT experts have been requested to report for SHA alternatives on the ICT system, especially on the registration and contribution domain.

There is a need for an alternative solution, even including recalling the SHA regulations and use of NHIF systems and the latter has financial implications.

The nature of the contract with the current NHIF system licences and contracts need to be renewed.” Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health revealed that the ICT system, which would act as a centralised management system for healthcare providers, would cost at least Sh5 billion to set up.

Acting SHA chief executive Elijah Wachira on Friday, June 28, revealed the rollout of the SHIF scheme has been pushed to October 1.

“To fully comply with the provisions of the SHIF Act, the Cabinet Secretary (Health) has directed that the payment and access to the new benefits package under the Authority be scheduled to begin from October 1, 2024. Therefore, the existing NHIF contributions and benefits will continue until September 30, 2024, to ensure seamless service delivery.

“This is to inform you, therefore, that the Social Health Authority (who has taken over from NHIF) has resolved to extend the healthcare provider contracts for a period of three months effective July 1, 2024, to September 30, 2024, to allow for a seamless transition from the NHIF to SHA,” Mr Wachira said in a circular to healthcare providers.

In a separate statement, Nakhumicha cited the withdrawal of the Finance Bill for the postponement.

“In light of the withdrawal of the Finance Bill, 2024, that sought to finance the Primary Healthcare Fund and the Emergency, Chronic and Critical Illness Fund and set aside funds for indigents and vulnerable persons, the Ministry is reworking to align to this reality. Therefore, the existing NHIF contributions and benefits will continue until we roll over to SHA,” she said.