It will now be mandatory for each household in Kenya to make a contribution of Ksh. 500 to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) in new reforms as the government rolls out a health cover for every Kenyan.
In a bill by the National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, employers will be required to make an equal contribution to the fund for their employees as the government moves towards attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
MPs have approved heavy penalties for employers who fail to remit to the fund or deduct the same from their employees’ salaries.
As President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term draws to a close, Members of Parliament raced against time on Tuesday to streamline the much-hyped universal health care.
Through the NHIF amendment bill 2021, the lawmakers in tailored amendments made it mandatory for all adults to be contributors to the national health insurance fund.
“Contributions will be by all Kenyans from 18 years and above in both formal and informal sectors,” the bill reads in part.
“Employers are required to contribute an amount equal to that which they have remitted on behalf of their employees.”
The bill pegs a compulsory contribution of Ksh.6,000 for the self-employed with no option of voluntary contributions to the fund.
The bill proposes to have employers whose employees are liable as contributors to the fund to also be contributors to the fund.
Employers shall make a matching contribution equal to that made by their employees according to the new changes.
The reforms seek to safeguard employees from having to pay double subscriptions.
An employer is expected to make a matching contribution to that of their employee and is not allowed to deduct the same from the employee’s salary or benefits.
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The bill proposes to introduce empanelled healthcare providers with the criteria for the empanelment and contracting of healthcare providers set by the health cabinet secretary and the national hospital insurance fund management board.
The proposed changes have been challenged by various stakeholders with the employers’ umbrella body FKE as well as the Central Organisation of Trade Union saying the proposed piece of legislation did not factor in the unemployment statistics in the country with a majority of those aged above 18 years still jobless.
Various stakeholders in the health and employment sector had expressed concerns over the NHIF Amendment Bill 2021.
Sector players termed the move unfair to the age group of between 18-25 as most are either still in school or jobless.
Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo said the proposals could force employers to cut private insurance schemes for employees as they would be required to channel their contributions to NHIF.
“All Kenyans aged 18 and above to mandatorily contribute is not feasible. There are many persons in this bracket that either do not have the means to earn an income or do not have the ability to contribute,” said Ms. Mugo.
COTU and all its 45 Affiliate Unions, and by extension the over 4 million COTU members, strongly oppose the amendments as contained in the NHIF amendment bill, in totality.
According to COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli, “NHIF was established by workers and formalized under Cap 255 of the Laws of Kenya in 1966 as a department in the Ministry of Health to provide health insurance exclusively for those in formal employment. Therefore, the core mandate of the fund is, and remains, to provide medical insurance cover to all its members (workers with an income) and their declared dependents; spouse and children.”
On the contrary, the amendment bill seeks to change NHIF, from a fund to a scheme and by and large changing the mandate and objective of the NHIF as it were previously.
Atwoli says this amendment bill will disband NHIF and bring up an amorphous body with a new mandate and new objectives. This is against the wish of Kenyan workers who are the contributing members of NHIF.