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More than 100,000 county staff could be struck off NHIF medical cover

More than 100, 000 county government employees risk missing out on critical health services with their medical cover hanging in the balance.

This follows a directive by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) last month to only continue offering comprehensive medical cover to civil servants, police and prisons service.

COMPREHENSIVE COVER

Kenya County Government Workers Union (KCGWU) General Secretary Roba Duba expressed concern that the directive by Mr Yatani risk leaving 103, 000 county government employees and their families without health insurance benefits as confusion continues to reign over renewal of their comprehensive medical insurance of with NHIF.

He said lack of clarity over the renewal of the covers now threatens to leave the county employees and their families seriously exposed and at risk with medical covers for county government employees falling due for renewal not being renewed by the State agency.

“The purpose of this letter is to implore your office to advise NHIF that county governments and their related agencies are covered in the exemption advisory from your office to enable employees get covered in realisation of provision of universal health coverage as we fight the monumental pandemic of Covid-19 in earnest,” said Mr Duba in a protest letter to Mr Yatani dated April 23, 2020.

Mr Duba said the situation is as a result of confusion whether county government employees are also defined as civil servants who should benefit from the exemption advisory by Mr Yatani to NHIF from continuing to offer comprehensive medical cover to other contributors not falling under civil servants, other government agencies with valid contracts and the National Police and Prisons Service.

EMPLOYMENT ACT

He said that from their interpretation, civil servants means and/or includes public servants in and both levels of government arguing that since county government workers draw their salaries from the Exchequer like their counterparts from the National Government, they are public officers/civil servants and fall within exemption bracket.

Further, he said, the Kenya Constitution and Employment Act, 2007 provides that it is the role of the employer to provide affordable, accessible, sustainable and quality medical cover.

“The National Treasury gazette notice failed to explicitly mention county governments like it did civil servants and the National Police Service. It is inconceivable for the National Treasury to fail to appreciate this fact,” said Mr Duba.

“Unfortunately, this has led to total confusion and it has now come to our attention that county employees are not being covered by NHIF for lack of clarity in the National Treasury notice,” he added.

The former Moyale MP criticised the move to have public servants ditch affordable enhanced social insurance cover from NHIF and go for an expensive commercial insurance that in turn require the public to be taxed more to pay for the premium.

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE

This, Mr Duba said, is going against the aim of Universal Health Care is to protect people from financial consequences of paying for health services out of their pockets and reducing the risk of pushing them to abyss of poverty.

“Most of the contract terms in counties were based on yearly renewal, proposed premium based on previous year’s cover performance and deliberations of the negotiation committee on the premium. This made it easy for public servants at county level to access medical cover,” said Mr Duba.

The General Secretary stated that counties whose covers fall due in the next few months or have already fallen due for renewal include Kisii, Kisumu, Kitui, Machakos, Mandera, Marsabit, Murang’a, Nakuru, Nyamira, Nyandarua, Tana River and Wajir.

Others are Baringo, Bungoma, Bomet, Isiolo, Lamu, Mombasa, Kajiado, Elgeyo Marakwet, Embu, Garissa, Kakamega, Kericho, Kiambu and Kirinyaga Counties.