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Economy

NHIF seeks new boss amid calls for more reforms

The NHIF Building in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE
The NHIF Building in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE 

The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) has embarked on the search for a new managing trustee following the exit of Simeon ole Kirgotty from the helm February when his term expired.

NHIF had appointed Geoffrey Mwangi as its CEO in an acting capacity, a position he has held for five months now.

The public health insurer said Friday that it is searching for a “result-oriented” individual of “impeccable integrity” to fill the post.

The recruitment process is expected to conclude in a month.

The candidate is expected to “advise the Ministry of Health on policy relating to Social Health Insurance,” said NHIF in the notice.

Reforms

The search for a new chief executive comes as NHIF is under pressure to upscale social health insurance coverage in the country.

While the fund has instituted a raft of reforms, in part doubling benefits for its members, it has been faced with accusations of corruption, ineptitude and underperformance.

“NHIF is a vital institution, but one which does not inspire much public confidence. This is because, like its sister NSSF, it is often mentioned in the news for procurement scandals, a revolving door of directors and executives, and court wrangles that always burden the taxpayer further,” said associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business Bitange Ndemo in a recent commentary.

NHIF in April last year began implementing new contribution rates for workers, with the new rules initially met with resistance from workers.

At one time, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) went to court to block the plan but withdrew the case after negotiations.

It also rolled out a new outpatient health cover for Kenyans after years of only offering in-patient cover.

NHIF Chairman Mohamud Mohamed at the time said the new rates and cover were geared towards attainment of universal health coverage for all Kenyans.

However, a section of private hospitals listed by the government as offering treatment to NHIF contributors have been turning away patients under the health plan since then, arguing the Sh1,200 capitation per member prescribed by NHIF for a whole year is unrealistic and unworkable.

The levying of higher NHIF fees was part of the government’s plan to offer universal access to health services as stipulated in the Constitution.

Monthly NHIF contributions are compulsory for formal sector workers.

Workers in the informal sector can also apply voluntarily, including those that have retired.

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