At the National Prayer Breakfast held at Parliament on Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked MPs to fast track and approve the Bill for the implementation of Universal Health Coverage.
The National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill seeks to make it mandatory for any Kenyan who attains the age of 18 to become a contributing member of the Government’s health insurance fund.
The minimum contribution is KSh500 per mot h, which means that every adult Kenyan will be paying KSh6,000 per year to the NHIF. Employers will also be forced to contribute for their employees, meaning that for those who contribute KSh1,700, the employer should match that amount.
For those who have private insurance, NHIF will be the insurance of last resort as it will only be compelled to pay after the private option is exhausted.
The new Bill has already met resistance from the noisily powerful Central Organisation of Trade Unions and the Association of Kenya Insurers.
For President Kenyatta, revamping the NHIF appears to be a crucial prong in his plan to improve the provision of healthcare, one of the aspects of his Big Four Agenda.
Other prongs have not been as successful as anticipated.
The Medical Equipment Scheme was condemned by the Health Committee of the Senate, which termed it a criminal enterprise after a months-long inquiry that discovered cases where machines were supplied in places where facilities to house and staff to operate them did not exist.
The results of the pilot of UHC in the counties of Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos were not made public but the fact that the government does not appear keen on rolling it out in full suggests that it did not work well.
As has become evident over the past few weeks, President Kenyatta’s focus is more on seeing through key legacy projects and less on getting involved in the jostling about who is going to succeed him.
The Building Bridges Initiative, which had been styled as a project to end the debilitating cycles of election violence, is largely seen to have run aground after the judgment of the five High Court judges.
With its effect on the industry and the influence of the trade unions, the NHIF (Amendment) Bill is likely to face a fair amount of criticism, if not resistance, and yet another legacy plan could be in the doldrums.