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Economy

Payroll hitch delays free NHIF for senior citizens

NHIF headquarters
NHIF headquarters in Nairobi Upperhill area. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A delay by the State Department of Social Protection in submitting to the Ministry of Health the list of citizens aged 70 and above has seen eligible beneficiaries go for months without free medical cover promised by the State.

The Ministry of Health says it is yet to receive the list containing the names of the 523,000 beneficiaries who are entitled to State-sponsored National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover.

The NHIF is supposed to share the list with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to allow for budgeting and request for funding from the Treasury.

“We are yet to receive the list with names of beneficiaries but once it comes, NHIF will verify that they are not already covered in another scheme and then we can begin the process,” said head of Policy Planning and Healthcare Financing at the ministry, Dr David Kariuki.

The government promised the senior citizens free medical insurance alongside a monthly stipend starting January 2018.The senior citizens have, however, complained of being turned away from accredited medical facilities despite their names being in the beneficiaries’ list.

“In my latest visit, the facility declined to treat me as an outpatient and instead asked that I fill some forms that will be sent to the NHIF for verification,” said a beneficiary who requested anonymity to enable him speak freely.

Upon receipt of the names of the registered beneficiaries, the ministry is required to enrol them on the NHIF list of beneficiaries to enable them enjoy the free medical cover.

According to Dr Kariuki, the ministry has a budget of Sh3.2 billion this financial year that is meant to cater for the Linda Mama NHIF cover, people from poor households, the elderly and those with severe disabilities.

Each of the registered senior citizens last week received Sh12,000 in accumulated bi-monthly stipend arrears after a six-month delay.

The delays were linked to a switch to an account-based model, where funds are sent directly to beneficiaries’ bank accounts as opposed to the old card-based system where banks relied on customer verification documents — mainly ID card and passport — and signatures to confirm their identities.

The senior citizens are entitled to Sh2,000 per month, which is paid every two months in a lump sum of Sh4,000.

The Social Protection Department, which is mandated to oversee implementation of the programme, made the last payment to beneficiaries in September for the July to August cycle.

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