Kenya’s public health insurance scheme—the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) provides much of the country’s health insurance. However, the percentage of citizens covered by the NHIF falls short of Kenya’s national goals related to healthcare access. One key way that the NHIF can improve participation rates is by partnering with health microinsurers (HMIs).
In his article “Benefits of public-private partnerships in health microinsurance: the Kenyan context,” Milliman’s Mitchell Momanyi provides an overview of the NHIF and the reasons for low participation in the program. He also outlines several ways it can work with HMIs to enhance its benefits and increase its health insurance coverage.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
HMIs offer simple and affordable benefits that, when paired with public schemes such as the NHIF, can encourage beneficiaries to participate in and use their public insurance benefits when necessary. An example of such a benefit offered by many HMIs is ‘hospital cash.’ Hospital cash pays a fixed amount of money to the beneficiary when a qualifying inpatient hospital stay is triggered. This money can be used to pay for costs related to seeking treatment such as transportation, food and partial replacement of lost income. These costs aren’t covered by the NHIF and would present a barrier to some individuals seeking treatment. The SAJIDA Foundation in Bangladesh and the Microfund for Women in Jordan are examples of organisations that have successfully launched hospital cash products.9
A second way in which the NHIF can increase its reach is by pairing its benefits with an HMI policy that provides value-added services. Examples of such services may include access to discounted medication and access to preventive services such as free health check-ups. Value-added services are included in some HMI policies in order to increase client value by making the benefits more tangible. Beneficiaries don’t have to wait for catastrophic events such as an inpatient admission in order to use their benefits. An example of an HMI that has successfully implemented value-added services is Uplift in India. Its ‘dial-a-doctor’ service is popular among beneficiaries.10
The government can also partner with HMIs in order to increase awareness of the NHIF programme. The Impact Insurance Facility describes the lack of awareness of public benefits as a key emerging lesson in Ghana. In discussing a field test conducted to gauge citizens’ awareness of the country’s National Health Insurance Scheme, the Facility states that the test group did not know about the costs and eligibility requirements of the programme. It went on to state that ‘this lack of understanding is an initial barrier to enrolment and a factor in low retention in the scheme – even with a government sponsored scheme intended to provide universal cover.’11 In order to distribute their products effectively, HMIs typically build valuable partnerships with entities such as local community groups, unions and cooperatives. The NHIF can leverage these partnerships in order to promote the programme effectively in remote areas that the government would otherwise be unable to reach.