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NHIF membership not mandatory as Bill is sent to Uhuru for approval

NHIF membership not mandatory as Bill is sent to Uhuru for approval.

The government’s plan to achieve universal health coverage through mandatory membership in the National Insurance Fund for adults has been thwarted by Parliament.

Legislators amended and passed the NHIF (Amendment) Bill, which exempts jobless Kenyans from mandatory enrolment in the national health insurer.

The National Assembly and the Senate agreed on Tuesday to approve amendments to exempt Kenyans from contributing to the fund.

The Bill now awaits President Uhuru Kenyatta’s signature before it becomes law.

Initially, the Bill required all Kenyans aged 18 and up to enrol in NHIF, which the government hoped would aid in the realization of the UHC, which has been in the works since 2018.

In the redesigned Universal Health Coverage scheme, all adults were required to pay at least Sh500 monthly or Sh6,000 annually.

The Bill proposed that the NHIF board determine the rate at which unemployed Kenyans would contribute to the fund.

Kisumu, Machakos, Nyeri, and Garissa counties have been chosen as test sites for the program. However, the national rollout has been stymied due to teething problems.

During his State of the Nation Address on November 30, the President urged Parliament to expedite the passage of the Bill to ensure Kenyans have access to health care.

It’s also a sigh of relief for employers who have been exempted from mandatorily topping up contributions for employees earning less than Sh500 per month.

“An employer other than the national government or county governments or their entities liable to pay a matching contribution under section 15 may be exempted from paying such matching contribution.

“…. if that employer has procured a private health insurance cover for its employees and the benefits are equal to or better than the benefits that the employees are entitled to under this Act,” the amendments read.

It states that an employer, other than the county and national governments, may apply to the NHIF board to be exempted from topping up their employees’ contributions.

Employers had previously petitioned Parliament to repeal the proposal requiring them to match their employees’ NHIF contributions.

They contended that it would add to their burden as they struggled to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The legislators also changed the provision that exempts national and county governments from penalties for failed or delayed NHIF disbursements.

The proposed penalty for non-remittance of standard and matching contributions was also reduced from Sh1 million to Sh500,000.

The county and national governments were exempted from penalties in the initial version of the Bill if the delays in disbursement were caused by the National Treasury.

However, legislators deemed the provision to be discriminatory and amended it. They said such an exemption is unjust and prejudicial to other employers.

They claimed that as the country’s largest employer, the government should bear responsibility for ensuring that all NHIF remittances are paid on time in order to ensure the fund’s long-term viability.


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During the Senate debate on the Bill, lawmakers stated that the proposed law will assist many Kenyans who are unable to pay for their medical expenses.

“All of us agree that medical expenses are expensive to most of our people in this country. Most of us in both the National Assembly and the Senate are always participating in harambees to defray medical bills,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said.

NHIF membership not mandatory as Bill is sent to Uhuru for approval


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