Kenya: Free Medical Scheme Pilot Project Gathers Steam in Four Counties

12 November 2018

A door-to-door campaign to register Machakos County residents for cover that will enable them get free medical services has begun.

County officials said those without National Health Insurance Fund cards would be registered.

The campaign, launched at Kavaani Hospital by Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki on Saturday, will take two weeks.


The devolved government has formed teams to spearhead the campaign as it gears up for the launch of the universal health coverage.

The committees are made of deputy county commissioners, chiefs and their assistants, medical health officers, political and church leaders.

The registration is spearheaded by PharmAccess, a digital platform contracted by NHIF.


"I urge you to take this opportunity to get registered for this programme. This will help to identify you or your family members whenever they visit public hospitals," Ms Kariuki said.

"I also encourage you to take advantage of services offered. Community health promoters will inform you of the services."

The minister told leaders to stop trivialising the scheme but ensure as many people as possible are enrolled.


"There will be no universal health coverage if we allow politics in the programme. It is the ordinary people that are most affected," the CS said.

"Politicians will run to big private hospitals in Kenya or abroad when they get sick. Let us register in big numbers and get the services."

Machakos, which is among the four counties chosen for the pilot phase of the free healthcare project, was the first to officially launch it and begin registering beneficiaries.

Other counties in the phase are Isiolo, Kisumu and Nyeri.


The Cabinet Secretary said national and county government officials want to reduce medical expenses of more than a million Kenyans.

She added that the beneficiaries are at a risk of being driven below the poverty line because of huge medical bills.

Government officials say the coverage will focus on a primary healthcare approach and would include improving immunisation, maternal and child health services.

It is also expected to prevent waterborne, vector-borne, sexually transmitted infections as well as tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.


"These actions will help achieve universal health coverage and ensure efficient spending of the country's resources. In essence, we shall implement the adage, 'prevention is better than cure'," the minister added.

The Cabinet Secretary which diseases would be covered in the programme, she said President Uhuru Kenyatta would make that public early next month.

The CS said the package would contain "a new bouquet of services accessible in public hospitals".


Machakos Health executive Naomi Mutie said the county government has advertised 600 more positions for medics "as part of the ongoing efforts to get the department ready for the pilot phase of the universal health coverage".

"We have upgraded 32 health centres to excellent status. The county government is getting eight additional ambulances for advanced trauma life support," the executive said.

"We also want to ensure an increase in our drugs budget to Sh400 million in order to realise the dream."


More than three million Kenyans in the four pilot counties are to start enjoying universal health coverage on December 1, when it is launched.

The launch will coincide with the World Aids Day, whose theme this year is "Know Yourself".

Ms Kariuki said the pilot programme would cost the government around Sh3.17 billion.


She added that the government will give every participating county government Sh800 million, with an additional Sh800 million for referral cases.

Governors are expected to contribute a similar amount towards the programme, the Cabinet Secretary said.

The success of the pilot programme in the four counties will clear the way for the national roll out, which will mark the beginning of a new era in public health service provision, she added.


According to the government, the decision to pilot the programme in the four counties was based on existing evidence on their disease burden.

Kisumu was identified because it leads in the infectious diseases category, especially HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, while Machakos records the highest number of injuries mostly from accidents occurring on the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway.

Nyeri was selected because it leads in non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes.


In Isiolo, the government will seek to establish how the package is suited for nomadic and migratory populations.

Isiolo, Nyeri, and Kisumu have activated the registration process to allow residents to benefit from the medical cover.

Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti, who is also the Council of Governors Health Committee chairman, said the UHC agenda seeks to improve healthcare.


In Isiolo, at least 40,000 households are set to benefit from the scheme.

The registration is expected to be completed before President Kenyatta officially launches the UHC programme on December 1.

In Isiolo, the household-based registration for the medical cover will be facilitated by Living Goods, a non-profit organisation that will serve as a registration agent.


The two-week exercise, where only Isiolo residents will be issued with UHC cards in order to benefit from free healthcare, will end on November 30.

The Ministry of Interior through administrators and police officers will provide security during the door-to-door registration. Messages will be spread through public barazas.

Governor Kuti said 70 per cent of the funds set aside for the pilot project will go to Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, where the four counties will take care of pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals, while 30 per cent is for operation and maintenance.

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