MPs pass Bill making NHIF mandatory for all Kenyans
Households in Kenya will now be required to make a monthly contribution of Ksh 500 with the National Hospital Insurance Fund after the National Assembly assented to the NHIF (Amendment) Bill No. 21 of 2021.
The bill by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya makes it mandatory for any person who has attained the age of 18 years to contribute to be a member of NHIF as the Government streamlines access to quality health care.
Employers ere however spared after the House dismissed an amendment compelling them to to make an equal contribution for their employees to the fund.
Employers with workers earning less than Ks12,000 will however be forced to top up their contributions to the NHIF and will face severe charges if they fail to do so.
Kimunya said the bill brings all Kenyans on board from the employed to the unemployed as they seek to implement the universal health coverage program under NHIF bill.
Members of Parliament also adopted categories and different rates for self-employed Kenyans, with Kimunya saying it will ensure a self-contributor without a family pays a different rate than one with a family.
And while employers under the Federation of Kenya Employers had petitioned Parliament to reject the amendments, MPs were unanimous on the need to bring everybody on board a public health insurance system that will guarantee all a chance to live a decent life regardless of their social status.
The MPs rejected amendments by the National Assembly Committee on Health seeking to force the National and County Governments to foot bills for poor households in the Country.
The amendments will now see the fund converted from a Hospital Insurancee to a Health Insurance.
It will come as a sigh of relief for the Deputy President William Ruto who had urged Members of Parliament to stand up and be counted during debate on the NHIF Amendment bill.
Ruto had argued that the NHIF bill was four years behind schedule saying, “I make this plea on behalf of millions of hustlers and Kenyans at large who will be beneficiaries of the scheme.”
All Kenyans will be compelled to be members of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) with employers toping up contributions of those who pay less than Sh500 monthly.
MPs last evening approved changes to the NHIF Act, which now makes it compulsory for every Kenyan above 18 years to contribute to the fund.
The government-backed National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill will see all adults compelled to pay Sh500 monthly or Sh6,000 annually in a remodelled Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme for outpatient and inpatient services, including maternity, dialysis, cancer treatment and surgery.
The MPs rejected the National Assembly Committee on Health amendments, which sought to have the national and county governments foot the bills for the 5.1 million poor households.
“A person who has attained the age of 18 years and is not a beneficiary shall register as a member of the fund,” a new clause, introduced last evening to the Bill states.
The NHIF board will determine the rate that the unemployed youth will pay to the Fund.
Employers with workers earning less than Sh12,000 will now be compelled to top up their employees’ contributions to the NHIF.
Currently, workers who earn between Sh8,000 and Sh11,999 pay Sh400 monthly, according to NHIF rates.
Formal sector workers contribute to the NHIF based on their salaries with the highest contribution being Sh1,700
Employers were facing up to Sh1,700 additional monthly statutory deductions per worker under the Bill but Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya lobbied MPs to make changes to have employers top up employees’ contributions instead of matching them.
“The base of contribution will be Sh500. But there are employees in the private sector who contribute Sh150 or Sh300. The import of this amendment is to ensure that the private sector employers simply top up the difference to ensure employees base is Sh500,” Mr Kimunya said.
Formal workers contributed Sh24.89 billion to the NHIF in the financial year ended June 2017, meaning that employers were to spend more than this on the State health cover given that formal contributors had risen to 4.452 million at the end of June last year.
“The national government and county government shall be liable as a contributor to the Fund in respect of all public officers, state officers and employees working in the national government and national government entities,” the new changes states.
“Any other employer shall be liable as a contributor to the Fund in respect of its employees.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta in June appealed to lawmakers to pass the Bill, which offers his administration the best chance of providing affordable healthcare for all Kenyans.
Employers had petitioned Parliament to reject the proposal in the Bill compelling them to match their workers’ NHIF contributions, saying it will be an added burden as they struggle to recover from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
MPs also created three categories and rates payable to NHIF by persons whose income is derived from self-employment.
“The essence is to ensure a self-contributor without a family pays a different rate from one with a family. The unemployed whether young or old and who is not an indigent will have a different rate,” Mr Kimunya said. The board will determine the rates through regulations.
Official data shows over 25.36 million Kenyans are aged 18 years and above, meaning the compulsory contributions would have added at least 16.36 million contributors, nearly tripling NHIF membership.