In a televised address from State House Mombasa on Tuesday, President Kenyatta announced that the rules, which had set in on January 1 and caused public outcry, will require further consultations before being implemented.
“Given my administration’s commitment to provide affordable health I am today directing the Ministry of Health to immediately halt the implementation of this proposals to allow for further consultations,” he said.
In the new regulations, NHIF had decreed that new members pay Sh6,000 ($60) and wait for three months before becoming eligible for the cover in contrast with the existing rules of paying Sh1,500 ($15) and accessing the cover within two months.
The new regulations were met with hostility from members of the public and leaders who warned that should it be implemented it risked reversing gains made so far and slow down the uptake of the NHIF scheme, which is a key plank of Kenya’s plan to achieve universal health coverage under President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.
As of June 2018, NHIF had over 7.65 million principal contributors paying premiums of Sh32.9 billion ($329 million) with informal sector contribution growing steadily.
On Sunday, Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) called for the suspension of the rules and Parliamentary Health Committee chairperson Sabina Chege echoed the sentiments. They both cited lack of consultation and the risk of locking out many families from the cover.