Kenya can emulate SA medical care model

Joe Kimondo

As it braces for the roll-out of Universal Health Care (UHC), among the other pillars of the government’s Big Four Agenda, Kenya may need to borrow a leaf from South Africa which has laid out a solid plan to offer such a service to its population.

South Africa, the continent’s most prosperous economy, has a population of 56 million while Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, has an estimated population of 48 million people.

Challenges facing both nations are largely similar, despite Kenya being lesser in economic might and health infrastructure, with each nation having a largely poor, rural population facing dire basic needs.

Two months ago, South Africa’s Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi published a draft National Health Insurance Bill for public scrutiny. The Bill lays out the structure of free, universal, high-quality health care for all, by creating a single national health insurance fund that would centralise procurement of medical supplies by the State.

South Africa’s NHI membership will be made mandatory for all citizens, meaning, even if one is covered by a private insurance, they are also contributors and beneficiaries of the national fund. Thereafter, all health care would be accessed free of charge through the NHIF.

President Cyril Ramaphosa who has been championing the rollout of UHC has often been quoted saying the financially able must help subsidise the service for those who are not, as is the trend across the world.

Another feature of the South African UHC programme, that Kenya could study  is the plan to purchase comprehensive healthcare services for the citizens and permanent residents from certified and accredited private and public healthcare service providers.

The Bill stipulates that since services are bought by the NHI Fund on behalf of its members, patients who want their medical costs to be covered by the Fund will not go directly to specialists or hospitals, without being referred through the Fund.

Pricing of health services would be determined uniformly and be paid out by the Fund to the private health care providers through a closely monitored capitation system.That way, every citizen can access health care in any part of the country. It’s a system Kenya could study and emulate as the South African model is borrowed from long existing best practices in the developed world. 

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