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Editorials

EDITORIAL: NHIF’s decision to cut off Covid-19 bills is ill-timed

NHIF head office in Upperhill
NHIF head office in Upperhill, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

At a time when nearly 20,000 Kenyans have been infected with the coronavirus, it is alarming that the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) will no longer pay private hospital bills.

Private insurance firms have also stopped medical cover for Covid-19 patients.

The cost of treating Covid-19 patients is high, and one can certainly see the potential problems for the underwriters if they were to undertake to fully cover the pandemic.

The Insurance Regulatory Authority recently told the Senate that Covid-19 treatment in private hospitals costs between Sh600,000 and Sh1.2 million in contrast with public facilities where it averages Sh135,000.

However, it is not proper for the NHIF to abandon responsibility to those who can’t get space in public health facilities, even if it means covering a portion of the bills.

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The patients seeking treatment in private hospitals are in many cases also contributors to the NHIF. Furthermore, public hospitals are clearly not able to accommodate all the Covdi-19 patients. The Covid-19 pandemic has also brought to the fore the need to invest properly in the public health system.

For too long, quality healthcare has been the preserve of the well-off, who can afford the services in the pricey private hospitals. Policy makers in the health sector fall under this bracket, explaining the lackadaisical approach to investment in the public health system.

A large number of counties have proven incapable of handling the pandemic, evidenced by the struggles to meet the target of 300 isolation beds.

We are therefore calling on the national government and counties to take a closer and more harmonised approach to public health, especially in terms of investment in facilities.

This should also be the approach when the national government is rolling out the universal healthcare programme, to ensure that the counties under whose mandate the plan will succeed or fail are up to the task.

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