Half of NHIF members risk freeze over lack of Huduma Namba


The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in this picture taken on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

More than half of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) members risk being locked out of healthcare over a State directive requiring the use of Huduma Namba cards as the single source of truth for all government services.

NHIF officials told Parliament that out of its 13 million principal members and their 26 million dependents, only 5.6 million have been issued with the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) cards, popularly known as Huduma Namba.

The NHIF says that the proposed law that refers to Huduma Namba as the first instance of proof will lock out millions of its members and their dependents from accessing healthcare.

Millions of Kenyans from low-income households primarily use the NHIF membership to get treatment, highlighting the exposure of those without Huduma Namba cards.

“Making NIIMS authenticator at the first instance of functional data will restrict access to quality and timely healthcare to beneficiaries and may ultimately hinder the realisation of UHC,” the NHIF told Parliament early this month.

“Out of the 11.6 million Huduma Namba cards printed, only 5.6 million are NHIF members with their cards printed.”

All Kenyans aged 18 and above are required to have their foundational data – including full name, date of birth, place of birth, gender, photograph, biometric data, and nationality —registered in the NIIMS database.

Government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna recently announced that only 7.3 million out of 10.5 million people have collected their cards as the government seeks to withdraw the current national identity cards in the next few months.

Some 3.2 million Kenyans or 30 percent who applied for Huduma Namba cards failed to pick their cards.

The government has been planning to roll out the second phase of registration, giving a chance to those who did not enrol in the first exercise to acquire the document set to replace the national identity card.

Kenya rolled out the mass distribution of the Huduma Namba card in 2019 in an effort to register citizens on the e-platform.

The NHIF wants Parliament to amend Clause 9 of the Huduma Namba Bill and delete the words “at the first instance” in a bid to save millions of its members from being locked out of healthcare services.

“Any government agency that requires personal particulars of a resident individual in order to provide shall at the first instance rely on the NIIMS database to authenticate the foundational data of such individual,” says clause 9 of the Huduma Bill.

The National Assembly on Administration and National Security backed the NHIF’s proposal in its report that is now awaiting debate before the House.

“Making NIIMS authenticator at the first instance of functional data will restrict access to quality and timely services,” the committee says in the report.

The government introduced the Bill after the High Court declared the biometric ID scheme illegal and ordered that it be made compatible with new data protection laws.

The court’s decision prompted a raft of changes to the Huduma Namba Bill, 2021 that was tabled in Parliament in December.

The government is backing the NHIF to provide affordable and quality healthcare to all Kenyans under a remodelled Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme for outpatient and inpatient services.

Membership to the State insurer became compulsory in January, with every Kenyan adult set to pay Sh500 per month or Sh6,000 annually.

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