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Millions of Kenyan citizens without medical insurance – Twaweza

Reports says in case of illness or injury a significant number of citizens, 31%, do not seek treatment because they lacked the funds to do so.

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A report by Twaweza indicates that a majority of Kenyans do not have a health insurance to resort to in case of illness. In its findings, Twaweza says Kenyans cite the cost as the reason behind their inability to acquire a medical cover.

The report released Thursday shows that 53% of citizens have some form of health or medical insurance, while 47% do not.

“The most widespread form of health insurance is the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF, held by 51% of citizens), while small numbers also have access to employer-provided schemes (3%) and/or private insurance bought by an individual or group (2%),” noted Twaweza in a report themed around the expected impact of the planned shift to National Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

“Many say that health insurance is expensive, and almost half do not currently have any form of health insurance. Of course, the cost of not having insurance can be even more expensive, when a medical need arises. Finding ways to persuade more people to sign up for health insurance has been a challenge for many governments around the world,” said James Ciera, Country Lead for Twaweza in Kenya

Lack of insurance, the report established, appears to inform how Kenyans consume health services including a trend where a good number of Kenyans decide against visiting a medical facility in times of sickness.

“A significant number of citizens (31%) say that the last time they suffered an illness or injury, they did not seek treatment because they lacked the funds to do so,” the report noted

Among NHIF members, the report notes that seven out of ten (71%) appreciate the fact that it provides them with affordable health services, while 34% add that it is affordable for most Kenyans.

The report further captured misgivings from NHIF members who complain that not all ailments can be treated under NHIF (49%), that members can only attend specific hospitals (36%) and that they are unable to access services when they were late with payments (35%). Others also lamented suspected corruption in the national medical insurance system.

“Citizens point to the lack of medicine available at health facilities as the biggest challenge currently facing the sector, cited by almost half of citizens (46%). This is followed by the cost of healthcare, cited by one in four citizens (23%). Seven out of ten citizens (70%) are currently satisfied with the availability of nurses and doctors in the health facility that they visit most often, up from half (47%) in 2017,” the report adds

The report notes that most citizens, 68%, are aware that the government has established community health workers across the country, and one out of four citizens, 26%, has already received some form of service from the new health workers.

“Citizens’ main understanding of the role of community health workers is that they are to deliver health information and services to the local community (55%), or to visit at home those who are unable to attend health facilities (38%),” stated the findings

Ciera says SHIF is a major health reform that will ensure Kenyans who have shied away from medical insurance are covered.

“The government also needs to assure citizens that this transition will not carry with it the ‘bads’ of the NHIF that were mentioned by citizens.” said James Ciera, Country Lead for Twaweza in Kenya

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