In Kenya just under a half of the population is poor, access to quality healthcare services by the poor is greatly compromised because the poor are unlikely to be enrolled in a pre-payment scheme i.e. health insurance. Consequently, they are more likely to pay out of pocket fees to access health services resulting in catastrophic spending on healthcare pushing them further into poverty.
The Government of Kenya aims to ensure all its citizens can access quality healthcare services when needed without resulting in financial hardship by 2030. As a means of achieving this goal of Universal Health Coverage the Government introduced ‘Linda Mama’ providing free maternity services to all women. The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Health in 2014 also introduced the Health Insurance Subsidy Program (HISP). HISP is implemented through the National Health Insurance Fund with funding from the World Bank and technical advisory services on design and implementation provided by the African Health Markets for Equity and GIZ-Health Sector Programme.
Through HISP approximately 183,000 households across Kenya’s 47 Counties are currently accessing comprehensive inpatient and outpatient insurance cover in public, private for profit and private not for profit facilities. The Health Insurance Subsidy Program has removed financial barriers to healthcare services for the poor by removing out- of pocket payments. There is also a marked increase of service utilization by the poor and better outcomes as a result of seeking healthcare early. Health facilities benefit from HISP as the additional funds received can be used to purchase essential drugs and supplies.
Dinah Shienjero, a care giver of four orphans, has been suffering from a chronic illness affecting her right leg. Like most poor Kenyans, Ms. Shienjero could not afford the fees charged in health facilities for treatment. She mainly relied on painkillers for relief, but her leg worsened until at some point she was unable to walk.
“I couldn’t afford to pay the fees charged to get my leg checked. I often took painkillers but my leg worsened,” she recounted. In some cases, Ms. Shienjero sold household items and her cattle to pay for health care. But this money was not enough to afford her proper health care. “I sold my things for my leg to get checked. But I could only afford a local medic, who did not help me much. My condition did not improve, yet after selling my things, I had to struggle to fend for myself and grandchildren,” she indicated.
However, Ms. Shienjero’s situation changed in 2015 when she benefited from the HISP which is now allowing her to access health care whenever she needs it. Because of this programme, she has been able to see a qualified doctor who was able to diagnose the problem and put her on appropriate treatment. Ms. Shienjero receives monthly injections for her ailment. As a result, the condition of her leg has improved and is now able to walk.2017-07-05