Stop migration of public servants from NHIF to private firms, State told

NHIF Building

The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) building in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

MPs want the government to stop migration of medical insurance services from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) into private firms.

Senators said the worrying trend is weakening public health facilities to the detriment of ordinary Kenyans.

The lawmakers argued that the disturbing trend continues to deny the government the much-needed revenue to improve services at public facilities to the level of their private counterparts.

The development follows disquiet and suffering among police officers at the hands of private medical insurance service providers after migration from NHIF in December last year.

Senator Catherine Mumma (nominated, ODM) called for the establishment of policies to support the public health system.

“We need to come up with a policy that says that if a senior civil servant needs to go to hospital at taxpayers’ expense, then they should go to a public facility. If we were to all go to public hospitals, then we would be able to channel more funds to them,” said Ms Mumma.

She lamented that NHIF supports many public servants in private facilities, denying the government funds to improve service delivery in public ones.

She urged MPs to design national insurance policies in a way that supports all citizens while also ensuring NHIF is run in a sustainable manner.

“We need to ensure more money goes to public facilities to improve their operations,” she said. Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna termed as worrying the fact that NHIF continues to lose business to private entities even in the provision of medical insurance services to government agencies.

He said NHIF should be supported to offer medical insurance services to public servants and institutions to ensure such revenues are kept within the government and not taken to private insurers.

“If there was ever an argument for government to government deals, I think this one would have been one of them,” he said. The ODM Secretary-General called for the Senate to summon the relevant cabinet secretary to shed light on the shift in provision of insurance services from NHIF to private insurers.

He alleged that, ever since the medical insurance scheme for police officers was transitioned from NHIF to a new consortium led by CIC, Old Mutual and Britam, there have been several complaints from members.

The complaints, he said, ranged from lack of proper sensitisation to inadequate information on the hospitals covered by the scheme and the limits of the cover in terms of inpatient, outpatient and maternity.

“We have heard senior officers saying they will address the concerns but I believe this is something that should have been done immediately after the changeover in December,” he said. The debate was ignited after United Democratic Alliance nominated Senator Raphael Chimera sought a statement from the Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee on the medical insurance cover for police officers.

He wanted the committee to find out whether police officers have access to a medical cover, details of the service provider, the sum assured and benefits offered.

This is in addition to investigating allegations that the medical scheme was yet to be made operational despite payments made for the financial years 2021/2022 and 2022/2023.

“Why was police insurance moved from NHIF? We need to build trust in our institutions starting with NHIF. If we are telling our police officers to move to private insurers, then it is very unfortunate,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.