Cotu opposes plan to review NHIF rates

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) has vowed to reject government’s plan to increase employees’ contributions to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

This comes a day after Deputy President William Ruto announced the government’s plan to review remittances made by workers to NHIF to match their earnings.

Under the proposed regime, top income-earners will pay more in monthly contributions to the State insurer as the government moves towards universal health coverage by 2022.

But Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli criticised the plan, saying the government cannot rely on salaried workers to realise the ambitious goal. He urged the government to pursue alternative funding for the universal medical scheme.

“Kenya’s population now stands at about 45 million people and what Ruto is telling Kenyans is that the paltry figure of 2.4 million in formal employment should now carry the burden of funding health  sector for about 43 million citizens as the government vows to realise 100 per cent Universal Health Coverage in the next five years. This is outrageous to say the least,” he said.

Contribution to the NHIF is a statutory requirement with Cotu representing a  membership of 2.5 million workers who all form the bulk of contributors to the NHIF.

Until early 2015, each worker contributed Sh300 per month with those in the informal economy contributing Sh150 each month.

In September 2014, Cotu and NHIF management agreed in September to withdraw a court case that had stopped hike in contributions and allow for a review to push the contributions to up to Sh1,700 for those earning above Sh100,000 and Sh500 for the informal economy workers.

Atwoli argues that any further review upwards is detrimental to workers, asserting a majority are grappling with hard economic times. He said Kenyan workers remain some of the most taxed in Africa and should be spared further financial burdens.  

“There has been no prudent management of taxes by either the government side or the various State corporations, yet the toiling poor worker  has religiously continued to honour the legal obligation to allow their payslips to be heavily taxed from Pay As You Earn (PAYE), NHIF,  National Social Security Fund levies and now you are telling us that the little take-home-pay should be set aside for medical cover to the rest of citizens, Surely?” Atwoli asked.

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