SPEECH BY H.E. UHURU KENYATTA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE KENYA DEFENCE FORCES DURING THE LAUNCH OF BIOMETRIC REGISTRATION FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE SCHEME BENEFICIARIES ON SATURDAY 31ST OCTOBER, 2020 IN MOMBASA COUNTY

On October 31, 2020 In Statements and Speeches

Chair, Council of Governors, Governor Oparanya,

Cabinet Secretaries,

County Governors,

Principal Secretaries,

Representatives of Development Partners present,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to join you all on this momentous occasion of the Launch of Biometric Registration for Universal Health Coverage Scheme Beneficiaries, which Scheme will be under the management of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

As Kenya and the world grapple with the challenges arising from the novel Coronavirus Disease, today’s launch represents a new frontier in our Nation’s fight against, both emerging and long-standing healthcare threats.

It also evidences the fruitful and dynamic cooperation between our two tiers of Government; as the National and County Governments jointly deliver on the shared mandate for the provision of Health Care Services.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The quest for a healthier Kenya has been a central theme of our Social Contract and Public Life.  Indeed, our Constitution makes it clear on this matter; that every Kenyan has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and the right to health care services, including emergency medical treatment. 

 To actualize that promise in our Constitution, for better health care services, as a government, we have articulated for implementation, specific policy measures in such plans as our National Vision 2030 and the Kenya Health Policy 2014-2030 and the “Big Four” Agenda.

The underlying reason for prioritizing health care provision is the recognition of the fact that without improved standards of health, our quest for prosperity and better life for our people would remain hollow. A healthy population means, other things being equal, higher productivity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will recall in 2017, I launched the Big Four Agenda, covering Universal Health Coverage, affordable housing, food and nutrition security, and enhancing manufacturing.  On Universal Health Coverage, my goal is to ensure all persons resident in Kenya have access to the essential health services they need for their health and well-being; and at affordable price.

 There is no doubt, if we look back to the days we were getting our independence, we have made significant improvements in our health delivery systems.  Equally true, however, access to health care is still a challenge for many, with out-of-pocket expenditure remaining high.  Available statistics show that in 2018, over one million Kenyans were impoverished due to high health expenditures for themselves or their loved ones.

Recognizing these unfortunate circumstances, we, as a Government, prioritized UHC and developed a comprehensive plan to progressively roll it out and upscale.   We began the UHC journey with the waiver of user fees in lower level facilities, then introduced several government-sponsored insurance programmes for the elderly, vulnerable children, people living with severe disability, pregnant women, secondary school learners, among others.

We then launched the UHC pilot phase in four Counties; and today we are launching the biometric registration of the state-funded UHC scheme beneficiaries as we progress further along the path of Universal Health Coverage.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The UHC pilot phase was, by all means, a success story.  It led to an increase in the utilization of health services, with over 1.6 million additional hospital visits made during the 12-month period of the UHC pilot phase. 

Key achievements of this phase include the establishment of an additional 208 community health units, staffed by 7,700 community health volunteers.  These volunteers attended over 2 million clients, many of whom were served in their homes rather than having to travel to the health centre.  Further, there was recruitment of an additional 752 health workers to narrow existing gaps.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There were important lessons learned in the process of implementing the UHC pilot phase; lessons which we need to take into account as we scaled up the UHC to cover all counties.  My Government, in consultation with various stakeholders including the County Governments and our development partners has incorporated the lessons garnered from the pilot phase, as well as international best practices, into the preparations for the national scale-up of UHC. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the last two years, our focus has been on financing health inputs and making strategic investment in areas such as primary health care, community health services, essential medicines, and medical supplies as well as human resources to ensure high quality health service delivery.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In scaling up the implementation of the UHC, we will focus on five major pillars:

First is scale up of reforms at NHIF, which shall be comprehensive and fully implemented, to ensure the country has a national social health insurer that is able to responsively meet the needs of Kenyans by strategically purchasing services for their health and wellbeing.

In this regard, I direct the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General to fast track the necessary legislation that will codify these reforms in law and foster the sustainability of the Fund.

Two, establish a mandatory UHC scheme, which will be managed by NHIF and regulated by the Ministry of Health; it will act as the national scheme for all persons resident in Kenya, notwithstanding one’s social status.

Three, adopt the Essential Health Benefits Package, which is already completed, and which will enable Kenyans gain access to an essential set of health services at a much lower cost.  The package covers several areas including outpatient and inpatient services, communicable and non-communicable disease management, maternity, dialysis, radiology, mental health, minor and major surgery, substance abuse rehabilitation, emergency services and cancer treatment, among others; all at the low cost of Ksh. 6,000 per household per annum.

Four, in line with the clarion call of “leave no one behind”, the Government will provide health insurance cover to initially one million households who are vulnerable and unable to meet even that low cost premium.  The identification of these one million households by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, and the Counties is set to begin in a few days across the entire Country. 

Five, the biometric registration of the identified poor households, which we launch today, is set to ensure that beneficiaries are, identified when they seek services at the health care facility and at NHIF branches, countrywide.  An e-claims system will be used to improve efficiency and curb fraud and abuse; challenges which we must address as we scale-up. Past initiatives to improve healthcare service delivery have not been a success because of these challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Delivering UHC requires close collaboration and synergy within Government, cooperation with the Private Sector and our development partners, the active participation of the Religious Sector, Civil Society and Health Care Practitioners, and support from the People of Kenya at the individual, family, community and national levels.

As has been identified in the Building Bridges Initiative, Kenyans are eager for improvements in healthcare delivery by both Government and Private Providers.

The BBI Implementation Report proposes fundamental and innovative solutions to the health quagmire that Kenya has faced since the beginning of our nationhood.

As Government, Leaders and Partners in delivering the Kenyan Dream; we are called upon to do all that is required of us so that Kenya may become a healthier nation.

The Kenya we want is one in which no Kenyan should leave the Country so as to receive the medical care they require; a Kenya that is a world-renowned medical tourism destination; a Kenya where healthcare bills no longer destroy, in a single swoop, wealth that has taken decades to create. And a Kenya where every person, regardless of their financial status, will receive the care they need at an institution within the local area; and a Kenya where UHC has become a platform for innovation in developing locally manufactured medicines and equipment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the County Governments, our development partners, the Ministry of Health, and all the other Ministry Departments and Agencies involved in this noble national task, for delivering this initiative on time and under budget.  In order to secure sustainability of financing for health, I urge both levels of Government to ring-fence health sector funds to support the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.

I invite all Kenyans and all persons resident in Kenya to register for NHIF and to ensure that they remain up-to-date with their subscriptions.  This will ensure that the Fund has the necessary financial depth required to deliver on its very important mandate; in addition to ensuring that in the event of a medical emergency, the Fund is able to step in and cover the paid-up Member or their beneficiaries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I conclude my remarks, I want to make it clear the scheme we are launching today must be a success.  In this context, I urge the NHIF to ensure that the precious funds committed to its custody, by both subscribers and supporters, are utilized prudently with utmost transparency and accountability.  Any person who attempts to defraud the NHIF or abuse its processes, will be dealt with accordingly as provided for under our laws. 

  Finally, it is now my humble duty to declare the “Biometric Registration for the Universal Health Coverage Scheme”, officially launched.

Asanteni Sana, na Mungu Awabariki.

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