As the rest of the world continues to evaluate commitments to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Kenya’s attempts to provide UHC remain shrouded in mystery.
President Uhuru Kenyatta shared little information on the topic during his Jamhuri Day speech, despite the day also being marked as world UHC day.
Striking healthcare workers and reports of Kenyans who cannot afford to pay for medical care continue to be an ordinary occurrence two years since the launch of the pilot UHC programme by President Kenyatta in 4 counties – Kisumu, Machakos, Nyeri and Isiolo – that was termed as a failure by the Council of Governors.
According to Dr. James Nyikal, who once served as the Director of Medical Services in the country, the fate of UHC lies in how the various challenges within the health sector will be addressed, and specifically through the use of legislation to resolve some of the issues.
“We need broad legislation based on national policy on UHCfinanced through insurance; a policy that we’re told is in progress but we haven’t seen it. When we have that then we’ll have an encompassing law that will look at areas like financing,” said Dr. Nyikal, who is also Seme MP.
2020 would have seen Kenyans enjoy the UHC programme, but there were numerous complaints from the four county governments that implemented the pilot programme.
An intergovernmental UHC meeting in Mombasa was organised, the main resolve being the issue of the national health insurance fund, which despite being mandated to serve the public, is largely ineffective in addressing comprehensive care.
Other resolutions from the meeting being the recruitment of UHC health workers, transfer of payroll to county Public Service Boards from the Ministry of Health and payment of community health volunteers.
Dr. Nyikal is of the view that legislation to guide key institutions in the health sector such as KEMSA, will help solve the issue of the monopolisation that was faulted by county governments for delaying medical supplies procurement.
As per the UHC data portal, Kenya still has a long way to go despite its commitment.
Refugees, migrant labourers, drug users, older persons, sex workers and persons living with disability are listed in the portal as categories of people who are yet to enjoy quality and affordable healthcare.
With the pilot project having ended unceremoniously, the fate of UHC hangs in the balance.