There are three types of Kenyans when it comes to access to health services.
A huge number do not have any form of health insurance or medical cover at all.
They survive by grace to stay healthy and on the magnanimity of relatives and friends to pay for their treatment when they fall ill.
Every time they fall ill, they have to pay cash for treatment and medicine, or pray that their ailment clears on its own.
There is another group that has medical cover offered by some of the best insurance firms in the country.
A majority in this group are in employment and constitute the upper middle class.
They have not been affected by the doctors’ strike, which enters the 68th straight day today.
Finally, there is a large group of Kenyans who access health care through National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
These are the people, in formal and informal jobs as well as in business, who pay a predictable premium every month and who benefit from the fund when they or their dependants fall ill.
According to Mr Nicodemus Odongo, the Director of Planning, Strategy and Marketing at NHIF, the insurance fund is a comprehensive family cover for the principal contributor.
By December 31, NHIF had 6.5 million registered principal members.
This translates to NHIF coverage of over 25 million Kenyans, including the principal contributors and their dependants.
Broken down into two simple groups, the 6.5 million principal members are 3,559,974 in the formal sector and 2,690,293 in the informal sector.
That means slightly over half of Kenya’s total population is covered.
However, not all have been enjoying the service in the last two months due to the ongoing doctors’ strike that has paralysed services in virtually all public hospitals across the country.
Though there is no hope in sight for a quick resolution of the issues that sparked the strike in the first place, Kenyans ought to know that they can still sign up as NHIF members because they can still use the card even in selected private and mission hospitals.
“The registration is a simple process,” Mr Odongo says.
According to him, one can sign up at a Huduma centre. Those in self-employment contribute Sh500 a month.
Once an individual is registered as an NHIF member, the principal contributor and dependants will enjoy medical services from selected NHIF partner hospitals in all regions of the country.
“These institutions could be private hospitals, mission hospitals and government hospitals offering outpatient, inpatient, maternity, renal dialysis, kidney transplant, surgery and cancer treatment among others,” Mr Odongo says.
He, however, admits the card is not without its challenges.
“We are an insurance firm. We have made third party arrangements with hospitals to offer medical services to our clients on our behalf. This occasionally gets tricky,” he says.