It will cost taxpayers about Sh2.3 billion in reimbursements to hospitals for unpaid bills if proposed changes to the health law that prohibits detention of patients, bodies and valuable documents are passed.
The National Assembly budget committee says additional grants of Sh50 million will have to be appropriated to each of the 47 counties to implement the changes proposed by the Health (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
The national government will also have to give more resources to public referral hospitals to cover for revenue loss.
The committee estimates that there will be 1,000 patients per month who will fail to pay their medical bills at the time of discharge in national referral hospitals.
The Bill sponsored by Nyando MP Jared Okelo wants hospitals pursue the recovery of debts through legal means instead of arbitrary detention of a patient or body.
“No health institution in the country shall detain or otherwise cause, directly or indirectly, the detention of the body of a patient who died after or during treatment for reasons of non-payment, in part or in full, of hospital bills or any other medical expenses,” says the Bill currently in the second reading in the House.
Appearing before the committee Tuesday, Mr Okelo said hospitals should not be seen as jails or cells.
“A body has no value, and detaining it only ends up putting more pressure on the bereaved family,” Mr Okelo said.
If enacted into law, hospital executives face a Sh5 million fine or a five-year jail term for detaining patients, bodies or documents over unpaid bills.
MPs have, however, expressed concern that if passed, the law might be exploited by persons who are able to settle their bills, negating the intended objective of the Bill.
But Mr Okelo sought to clarify that he is not advocating free release of bodies or patients but a situation where a hospital negotiates a mutual agreement with the affected families on how to settle the bills later.