Free NHIF plan for expectant women to cover entire family

Mothers and their infants at Pumwani Maternity Centre. PHOTO | FILE
Mothers and their infants at Pumwani Maternity Centre. The move will cost the government Sh6,000 per woman and will be loaded onto the NHIF card to be redeemed at a health facility. PHOTO | FILE  Nation Media Group

Expectant women are set to get free National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover for their maternity expenses as well as their family members’ medical costs.

Under the “Linda Mama, Boresha Jamii programme,” all pregnant women who register for the NHIF cover will access antenatal, delivery, postnatal care and one-year child care in all NHI- accredited facilities.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Tuesday announced that funding for the free maternity programme has been increased by Sh1.2 billion to include faith-based hospitals and select private clinics.

The additional funding raises the free maternity allocation by the Treasury to Sh5.4 billion, up from Sh4.2 billion disbursed last year.

“We took this step in order to tame and reduce the then unacceptably high maternal mortality rate prevalence in the country,” said the President in a statement.

“NHIF is now delegated to manage the programme to ensure efficiency in the processing of payment and to strengthen its role in health care financing.”

Husbands and other children of the women with NHIF cards will be treated for free upon authorisation.

Health Secretary Cleopa Mailu said the government will be paying a Sh6,000 annual premium per mother with a monthly contribution of Sh500 for a comprehensive cover.

Mr Kenyatta said the NHIF cover is intended to reduce maternal deaths and help to achieve universal health care. The Jubilee government introduced free maternity services in June 2013.

Before then, an estimated 60 per cent of women were delivering at home — attributable to financial constraints due to high medical costs out of reach for the poor.

This resulted in 6,000 deaths of mothers every year on account of preventable complications during pregnancy or during child birth.

“These facts and figures were really vexing to me,” said Mr Kenyatta.

“These were not just numbers but the lives of our women at stake. We have to make maternal health a key issue in our bid for health improvement and sustaining universal health care.”

The free maternal services, he said, have averted more than 2,000 deaths of mothers and 30,000 child deaths annually in the last three years since its launch.

A 35 per cent rise in deliveries in public health facilities was recorded during the first year of the programme, with the facilities handling more than a million deliveries, more than double the 460,000 deliveries at the beginning of the programme.

The general secretary of the Christian Health Association of Kenya Samuel Mwenda said that already 1,000 faith-driven facilities have signed up for the programme.