Pregnant mothers who fail to register with the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) will miss free maternity services at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
In an internal memo copied to all staff of the national referral hospital, acting KNH chief executive officer Bernard Githae directed that unregistered pregnant women visiting the hospital should first be referred to NHIF offices for immediate registration before receiving free services.
The new directive, Dr Githae said, is meant to ensure that Kenyatta Hospital gets reimbursement from NHIF.
“The free maternity services that have been in operation since June 2013 have now been transferred to NHIF under Linda Mama Programme. Mothers who need to benefit from this programme should be registered with NHIF. Those mothers that are currently not NHIF members should be referred to NHIF offices for instant registration through a mobile phone platform provided by NHIF,” said Dr Githae in the statement.
“This is therefore to instruct all service providers to render maternity services to mothers who are duly registered with NHIF for purposes of reimbursements. Mothers who refuse to register for NHIF should be asked to pay cash for maternity services. This takes effect immediately.”
The free maternity programme was first unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta in October 2016 to encourage women to seek maternity services before and after delivery, as one of the ways of bringing down maternal mortality in Kenya.
The Linda Mama, Boresha Jamii Programme is a free NHIF cover that meets all the maternity expenses. Pregnant mothers registered under the programme have access to antenatal, delivery, postnatal care and one-year child care in all NHIF-accredited facilities.
The government pays an annual premium of Sh6,000 per mother. Mothers can opt to make Sh500 monthly contribution to benefit from a comprehensive cover.
NHIF chief executive officer Geoffrey Mwangi, in an interview Tuesday, said the Linda Mama maternity scheme requires expectant mothers to register before giving birth to provide various details including the preferred facility for giving birth.
The information is supposed to help the national insurer to reimburse the hospitals.
“This service comes at no cost but pregnant women need to register with NHIF to benefit from it. This is a requirement for any mother giving birth or seeking post-natal care at NHIF-accredited facilities, which include all government hospitals, faith-based and some private hospitals,” said Mr Mwangi.
The Jubilee government introduced free maternity services in June 2013. Before then, an estimated 60 per cent of women were delivering at home — attributable to financial constraints due to high medical costs out of reach for the poor.
This resulted in 6,000 deaths of mothers every year on account of preventable complications during pregnancy or at child birth.