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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The NHIF tax! Thank you Industrial Court!


The news filtered in from the courts during the day that the new tax by the nationalhealth insurer had been suspended, albeit for the time being.
In my not-so-humble opinion, I think, the National Health Insurance Fund was becoming greedy. For the last three years they have been taking in my Sh320 per month. Now, all of a sudden, they sit in a boardroom somewhere and decide that I ought to pay more so that I can access the outpatient cover.
What I didn’t understand was why they went for the inpatient cover, then wait for us to get the private medical schemes to charge us highly for outpatient cover, and now when we have managed to squeeze in whatever we have to the private medical schemes, then they show up with this new deal in the name of the poor.
Yes, they say they’ll improve the hospitals, raise the standards of the facilities and all that flimflam, but then I have my doubts. If all along the government’s official excuse has been “the hospital has not been built because there’s no money”, how then or what mechanism will they use to build hospitals?
So workers moved to court and the court sent the mandarins at the blue building back to the table.
And for that, I have Mr Francis Atwoli, the secretary general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions to thank. That’s one thing I love about unions. You speak when our professional discipline does not allow us to vent our views publicly. The myth is called objectivity.
Anyway, the fellows at the swanky address in Nairobi’s Upper Hill have not been handling the cash pretty well. Like any government agency, there’s been plenty of wastage and we all know it, because the fund always pops up everytime the Public Investment Committee is doing its enquiries.
You’d tell me, they want the money to build hospitals, so that we get better services but then, they didn’t say that. Did they? I interviewed that chairman, Prof Richard Muga, about the new policy and he told me that if the hospitals don’t up their game, then the patients won’t go there.
Now, these orders are to be given to hospitals like Nakuru’s Rift Valley’s Provincial Hospital or just any of the government health facilities. Did you see how the public wings of government hospitals look? (Anyway, why do we have private wings in government (public) hospitals?) What I know, if there’s no money in government, then nothing moves. And that has to wait until the next budget is read.
So, NHIF should just put in the mechanisms to improve health care provision, eliminate the stupid wastage of the little that we contribute and talk to us about how this thing has to be done and then let’s agree.
Seriously, what was the rationale of setting a minimum for the self-employed?
And now my cynicism and paranoia refuses to go away: What if someone is cleverly raising money for the 2012 campaigns? Look at who is boss at NHIF, the minister of medical services and who has his eyes on 2012. Well, that, for now is just guess work. But, this is Kenya. No?
And don’t tell me that I am up in arms because of ignorance. Proper healthcare means money. That’s a fact. But then we need better services to justify the little that we are giving, not simply beautiful offices and some moody employees serving us, before we can give more. NHIF should think hard and long about this.

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