The initiative is a flag ship project under Vision 2030 which is jointly being implemented by the Ministry of Health and National Hospital Insurance Fund and financed by the World Bank through a concessional loan to the government.
According to the Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, the program is being rolled out on a pilot basis across the country.
"The first program will entail looking at the most poorest 500 households in every county before it is escalated to cover a wider group in the entire country," said the Cabinet Secretary when he officially launched a campaign dubbed Health for All.
He said that the new scheme seeks to enable the poor to have a healthcare insurance cover under a universal scheme.
"If the pilot programme succeeds, then we are assured of replicating the initiative to cover a bigger margin and increase the number of people covered under insurance from the current 4 million to 25 million in the next two years," he explained.
He said that the 4 million only translates to a paltry 10 percent which is a considerable challenge that requires immediate attention.
The Cabinet Secretary said achieving universal health coverage still remains a challenge due to financial constraints and the over reliance on direct payments at the time people need care.
This he said had undermined equity in health and stopped millions of people from receiving the care they need.
The situation has been aggravated by the rising poverty levels and government's inability to sustain the financing of essential services and delivering them through an overstretched health system.
"It is estimated that about 46 percent of our population live below the national poverty line of which 19 percent constitute the poorest segment of the population. The poor in the society continue to bear the greatest burden of the disease because they do not accord any priority to healthcare thus resulting in high morbidity and mortality," he noted.
The Health Insurance subsidy programme is yet another attempt by the government to provide universal health insurance for the entire population after two previous attempts met stiff resistance.
In 2004, President Kibaki declined to assent into law the National Social Health Insurance Fund Bill sponsored by the then Health minister Charity Ngilu even after Parliament passed it. The President cited the huge cost that the new legislation would have on the State finances.
The 'Ngilu Bill' had proposed that the government pay Ksh11 billion to NHIF annually to meet the insurance costs for the poor.
Later in 2010, NHIF proposed to increase the monthly contributions by its members from the Ksh320 — payable monthly for workers in the formal sector—on a graduated scale. That would have seen workers earning more than Ksh100, 000 make a monthly contribution of Ksh2000. The lowest contributor would be required to pay Ksh150 for those earning a monthly salary of Ksh6, 000 and below.
Further, it was envisaged that the government would contribute about Ksh5 billion for the 6.5 million Kenyans considered to be living in abject poverty. Amidst this, Cotu moved to court to challenge the proposal terming it unlawful. The matter is still pending in court placing NHIF's intentions in limbo.
The Cabinet Secretary at the same time said that the government initiative on free maternal health services has helped to increase the utilization of maternal health services from 44 percent to 66percent since its inception 8 months ago.
"This has helped to reduce maternal deaths by 8 percent over the last eight months from 5,500 pregnancy related deaths, we are saving 500 mothers," he explained.
He said that the child mortality rate has dropped by 15.8 percent. "Previously statistics show that we used to lose 100,000 children aged below 5 years every year but this has dropped by 16,000 children.
The health for all campaign promotes universal health coverage to ensure equity in service use, quality and financial protection for all.
The campaign is being implemented by the Management Sciences for Health (MSH), a non-profit international organization working in public health to strengthen health systems management and improve access to critical health care
According Hiwot Emishaw, the regional Campaign Director, the initiative seeks to accelerate quality healthcare and achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in three African countries.
Emishaw says the campaign has already been recognized by Nigeria and Ethiopia governments as a vital part of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) movement.
She explained that in Kenya, the campaign is geared towards the endorsement of Universal Health Coverage by leadership at all levels of government, increased public awareness on issues affecting access to health care and sustained multi-sectoral commitment towards achieving the targets of health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Kenya by 2015.
This article was published in the