By Nura Kabale
The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) subcontracted three healthcare providers to register 3.2 million Kenyans in four counties set to receive a range of free medical services beginning this month.
PharmAcess Foundation, Living Good and Amref will register residents of Machakos, Isiolo, Kisumu and Nyeri counties for the pilot programme aimed at testing a possible rollout of universal health coverage (UHC).
The pilot programme is anchored on the NHIF paying the full cost of services offered to residents of the four counties.
The companies were selected to fast-track the scale-up of UHC by using Community Health Workers (CHWs) as agents for NHIF registration at community level.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said that by utilizing a public-private approach, PharmAccess would facilitate digital registrations into NHIF, health financing, and service delivery in a cost effective and transparent way.
“The three agents have been delegated by NHIF because they have more access to residents in the region owing to their community work. Machakos has trained 1000 community workers while the other counties have trained numbers that are tied to their population,” she said.
The success of the pilot programme in the four counties will give clearance for a full-scale rollout of UHC in the rest of the country.
CS Kariuki and Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyongo said some of the money will be used to hire community health workers who play a pivotal role in the counties health systems.
Machakos County increased the number of health workers according to Health executive Naomi Mutie, saying the county government advertised 600 more positions for medics.
Mutie said this was part of the ongoing efforts to get the department ready for the pilot phase of the universal health coverage.
“We have upgraded 32 health centres to excellent status. The county government is getting eight additional ambulances for advanced trauma life support. We also want to ensure an increase in our drugs budget to Sh400 million in order to realize the dream,” she said.
In Isiolo County the door to door registration of 40,000 households for the medical cover has been facilitated by Living Goods, a non-profit Organisation that will serve as a registration agent.
Ministry of Interior through administrators and police officers who were available in all of counties launched have been providing security during the door-to-door registration.
The drive will involve talking to residents in election polling centres, village barazas, churches and schools. Door to door campaigns will be employed to reinforce the drive.
70 percent of the funds set aside for the pilot project will go to Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, the four counties taking care of pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals, while 30 percent is for operation and maintenance.
KEMSA is expected to play a critical role in the success of the pilot by offering competitive prices of drugs. An additional Sh800 million will be allocated to each of the counties for complicated cases that would be referred outside the boundaries of the participating counties.
CS Kariuki said counties will receive a Sh3.17 billion conditional grant, each getting Sh800 million, to roll out the programme and the counties are then expected to match the amount with own investments.
Kisumu was identified because it leads in the infectious diseases category, especially HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis while Machakos recorded the highest numbers of injuries mostly from accidents along the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway and many winding roads in the county.
Nyeri is part of the pilot because it leads in the non-communicable diseases segment, especially diabetes while Isiolo was picked to establish how the package would be suited for nomadic and migratory populations.