Health is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big four agenda. As part of his legacy the President appears keen on making healthcare affordable for all Kenyans. Pundits nonetheless are divided over the meaning of affordable but for purposes of this blog we’re interpreting it to mean ability to get quality healthcare without diminishing one’s savings.
However that legacy is likely to stall so long as people who matter in the country are not using public hospitals and therefore remain unconcerned. That is why the request for a Bill to amend the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Act by Kwale Woman Rep Zulekha Hassan is very important.
With the increase in lifestyle diseases health has become even more expensive. It’s no longer strange to see people seeking this or that help to offset a medical bill that’s too big for the family to sustain. And in most cases they have to travel abroad because our hospitals are either not well equipped or don’t have the specialists for complex procedures.
It’s as though the health sector is collapsing on its own weight. Evidence of negligence with catastrophic results have plagued the biggest referral hospital in the country. Unfortunately the poor don’t have the luxury to fly abroad for treatment or seek private healthcare; they must contend with the poor standards. On the other hand, our legislators who can and should ask difficult questions are unable to because they have insurance cover that saves them the agony, paid for by the taxpayers.
In fact only last week the Star newspaper reported that at least 13 Members of Parliament are in India for specialized treatment.
The four Senators and nine MPs who sought treatment abroad are lucky they are not worried about affordability when it comes to health issues. Meanwhile, every day in Nairobi, let alone the whole country, there’s someone fundraising for Cancer or some other fatal disease. For them it is the emotional trauma close family members go through but for the rest of majority poor, there’s the emotional distress and the poverty the disease brings with it as people deplete their savings.
As long as public officials have a cover that keeps them from Public hospitals and at the expense of the tax payer, the health cartels sabotaging public health will continue thriving.
It is therefore a welcome thought that Hon. Zulekha Hassan is requesting the amendment of the NHIF Act to introduce a mandatory requirement that all public officers be entitled to the payment of benefits for medical expenses only in public hospitals. This will mean if MPs are to attend private hospital, it will not be at the expense of the taxpayers.
If that Bill sees the light of day there will be increased funding as Hon. Zulekha. Contribution from all public officers means more staff and better equipment as a result of the increase in funding. Needless to mention that MPs will be more vigilant and crack the whip on individuals or groups of people hell-bent on sabotaging the public hospitals for their own private practice.
Affordable Healthcare is a legacy the President can only realize if he has the entire Members of Parliament behind him to help deal with laws that are an obstacle or drafting of new ones that can make it a success.
If the President is truly serious about transforming the state of public health in the country he should as a sign of good faith support this request by the Kwale County Women Rep and convince MPs from Jubilee to make the amendment. Without proper motivation from the lawmaking body, there’s very little the Executive can do by itself to achieve affordable healthcare.
This is a Bill Kenyans from all walks of life should rally behind and push it through. Also, once tabled we must remain vigilant and participate when it comes to public hearing and ensure it is not watered down like most good Bills are done. It’s time we took interest in public participation especially on such crucial laws.