Fresh push for NHIF to pay for cancer screening


The National Health Insurance Fund building in Nairobi in this photo taken on February 9, 2022. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

What you need to know:

Medical experts are pushing for the inclusion of cancer screening in the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover saying it will significantly lower treatment costs.

The experts from the Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (KENCO) and the Center for Public Health Development (CPHD) note that up to 70 percent of cancer cases are detected late due to costly diagnostic services.

The NHIF currently covers the treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer and kidney failure but does not cover screening costs compelling Kenyans to pay from their pockets to access the services.

“If we have the NHIF paying for cancer diagnostics then that will change the health-seeking behaviour of Kenyans since they know they will be sent to the lab for proper diagnostics,” KENCO director Evan Mapelu told a media roundtable by Pfizer.

It is estimated that up to 90 percent of cancer patients in Kenya rely on the NHIF cover to be able to afford the treatment which includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Cancer patients are for instance covered up to 20 radiotherapy sessions a week at a cost of Sh3,600 and a maximum of six sessions for 25,000 per chemotherapy session.

Those exhausting the limits before the end of the year are forced to use cash for treatment even as they continue making premium payments to NHIF.

Mr Mapelu notes that early detection of cancer through proper screening saves lives and reduces the cost of treatment.

It is estimated that Kenya is losing a patient every 15 minutes, translating to 37,000 people every year dying from cancer-related causes. New diagnoses every year is upward of 47,000.

“Cancer is the third leading cause of death both globally and in Kenya, and is the second leading cause of non-communicable diseases after cardiovascular diseases so that how big of an incidence it is,” said Dr Josephine Muiru, Pfizer oncology medical manager for East Africa.

Pfizer has over the last decade pioneered several breakthroughs in bras cancer, genital-urinary cancer and haematological malignancies.

Its portfolio of 24 cancer medicines has reached an estimated 889,000 people living with more than 30 types of cancer across the globe.

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