Opinion and Analysis
Confusion over NHIF’s new rates undesirable
It seems like the long-drawn battle over NHIF’s plans to increase monthly membership contributions is not going to end in the near future.
Just when the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) thought the High Court’s decision in March dismissing the Central Organistion of Trade Unions (Cotu) petition on the matter has cleared the way for it to bring the new charges into force, dark clouds have been gathering over the scheme with unprecendented speed.
It all began on Monday when Cotu published a notice warning employers against being coerced into charging the workers new monthly premiums even as the appeal it has filed in court awaits hearing and determination.
Then followed Tuesday’s warning by Cotu that it would call a national workers’ strike mid this month should NHIF ignore its plea and start charging the new rates this month as it had indicated.
That threat appears to have worked. Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, who represented President Kibaki at the Labour Day celebrations, responded with a plea that implementation of the new scheme be frozen until outstanding issues are resolved.
Three issues stand out in this drama. First is the continuing fight over the new rates that has left millions of workers — who are key to the success of the scheme — in confusion. Nothing that is so good should be allowed to start on such a murky path.
Second, NHIF must be reminded that its good intentions do not rule out the very valid concerns of the Kenyan public that it lacks the capacity to manage the billions of shillings it has been asking for to produce the desired results.
The big idea
Thousands of Kenyans who are NHIF contributors and have for years had to deal with NHIF know very well what the organisation’s service levels cannot be merely dismissed in the manner that is currently being done.
Universal health care, the big idea behind the planned increase in monthly contributions, is a noble idea that very few Kenyans have opposed.
It is only the manner of its implementation and the refusal of those in charge of the fund to address the very valid capacity issues that is causing all the friction.
For the NHIF, the better way to go over these hurdles would be to address the concerns.