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Reason for Atwoli's appointment to Social Health Authority in plan to replace NHIF

Francis Atwoli will play a key role in President Ruto's plan to replace NHIF

Francis Atwoli

President William Ruto has appointed Timothy Olweny as the chairperson of the Social Health Authority for a period of three years with effect from 22nd November 2023.

In a gazette notice issued on November 22, Health CS Susan Nakhumicha also appointed Francis Atwoli, Dr Zakayo Kariuki Gichuki and Jacinta Kathamu Muteg to the board.

Atwoli was appointed to the board as a representative of the Central Organization of Trade Unions, where he has served as secretary general for 22 years since his appointment in 2001.

The Social Health Authority is a new initiative aimed at making healthcare affordable and accessible to all citizens through a social health insurance system.

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This follows the signing of four Universal Health Coverage bills by President William Ruto.

They are the Primary Health Care Act, 2023, the Digital Health Act, 2023, the Facility Improvement Financing Act, 2023 and the Social Health Insurance Act, 2023.

The new system replaces the existing National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and introduces three new health funds:

  • Social Health Insurance Fund, 
  • Primary Healthcare Fund, and 
  • Chronic Illness and Emergency Fund
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  • Eligibility: All Kenyan adults, newborn babies, and foreigners who have been living in the country or intend to stay for more than 12 months are eligible to join the Social Health Insurance Fund. 
  • Funding: The government will make payments on behalf of non-salaried households, prisoners, and employers, while national and county governments will also contribute to the fund. Only members who actively contribute shall access health services.
  • Primary Healthcare Services: The new system focuses on early diagnosis, early intervention, prevention of health conditions, mental health and well-being recognition, and more.
  • Digital Health Agency: The Digital Health Agency will ensure Kenya embraces electronic health records and other digital health solutions.

The Social Health Authority has faced some backlash, with many Kenyans seeing it as a new tax and fearing corruption in the new healthcare fund.

However, proponents argue that the new system will ensure that every Kenyan can access healthcare without facing financial hardship.

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In October, President Ruto emphasized his plan to implement universal health coverage, stating, "These laws will transform healthcare in Kenya; they will save lives, empower communities, and make us a stronger and healthier nation."

The Primary Healthcare Fund will cater to services at levels 1 to 3, the Social Health Insurance Fund will cover services at levels 4 to 6, and the Emergency, Chronic and Critical Illness Fund will address emergency and chronic illness costs once social health insurance is depleted.

The move aligns with Article 43(2) of the Constitution, ensuring that no Kenyan should be denied emergency medical treatment.

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