Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage

Kenya: National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF)

2.7 million

Funding

Member contributions, Employer contributions
Formal Sector, Government Employees, Informal Sector
Premiums, Co-payments

Population Covered

All populations

Service delivery system

Both Public & Non-state
150
450

Institutional structure

Decentralized to district/local level
Central Government, District/Local Government
Central Government
District/Local Government
District/Local Government
Reform summary: 
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The Health Insurance Act of 1998 makes no distinction between formal and informal sector, and indicates that membership shall be mandatory for all Kenyans at least 18 years of age. The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is the primary provider of health insurance in Kenya with a mandate to enable all Kenyans to access quality and affordable health services. NHIF was restructured by the repeal of the National Hospital Insurance Act (CAP 255) and the enactment of the National Hospital Insurance Fund Act No. 9 in 1998. This new law made the NHIF an autonomous parastatal, separating it from the direct control of the Ministry of Health. The Fund is governed by a Board of Directors with representatives from civil society, employers, and local governments. The Health Insurance Act of 1998 makes no distinction between formal and informal sector, and indicates that membership shall be mandatory for all Kenyans at least 18 years of age. In practice, however, while Kenya has achieved high levels of coverage of the formal sector, coverage of the informal sector has proved more challenging.

The Health Insurance Act of 1998 makes no distinction between formal and informal sector, and indicates that membership shall be mandatory for all Kenyans at least 18 years of age. The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is the primary provider of health insurance in Kenya with a mandate to enable all Kenyans to access quality and affordable health services. NHIF was restructured by the repeal of the National Hospital Insurance Act (CAP 255) and the enactment of the National Hospital Insurance Fund Act No. 9 in 1998. This new law made the NHIF an autonomous parastatal, separating it from the direct control of the Ministry of Health. The Fund is governed by a Board of Directors with representatives from civil society, employers, and local governments. The Health Insurance Act of 1998 makes no distinction between formal and informal sector, and indicates that membership shall be mandatory for all Kenyans at least 18 years of age. In practice, however, while Kenya has achieved high levels of coverage of the formal sector, coverage of the informal sector has proved more challenging.

Contributions are calculated on a graduated scale based on income, with a majority contributing between KES 30 to KES 320 per month. For the self-employed and others in the informal sector, membership is contributory and is available for a fixed premium of 160 KES per month. All Kenyans are eligible for membership if they are at least 18 years of age. In total, NHIF has about 2.7 million contributors and 6 million dependents, or about 1/5 of the total population.

The benefits package includes coverage of inpatient expenses with the share of expenses covered determined largely by the type of hospital. The NHIF’s hospital network is broken into three tiers of hospitals. At “Contract A” hospitals, which include primarily government hospitals, NHIF beneficiaries receive comprehensive cover with no overall limit on the amount of benefits received. At “Contract B” hospitals, which include certain non-state providers (e.g., non-profit private hospitals, mission hospitals, and private hospitals in rural areas or areas not sufficiently served by the public sector), coverage remains comprehensive, but an annual limit of 432,000 KES per beneficiary applies. At “Contract B” hospitals, certain high cost surgeries may also carry a co-pay, which can be as high as 80% of the professional portion of the cost (with facility and hospitalization charges still covered with no co-pay). Finally, at “Contract C” hospitals, which include many higher cost private hospitals, the NHIF provides a rebate only, which generally ranges from KES 400 to KES 2,000 per day of hospitalization. Stays over 5 days in “Contract C” hospitals require prior authorization, and the total number of days covered in this type of hospital cannot exceed 180 days per beneficiary annually.

Kenya is administered on the local level by 31 fully autonomous branches throughout the country. An additional 82 service points – where beneficiaries can pay premiums, update membership information and receive other forms of customer care – exist as a convenience at hospitals and other community centers. The majority of services covered by the NHIF are delivered through private facilities, indicating a preference by the bulk of salaried workers (who make up the majority of those covered by NHIF) toward private providers rather than public institutions.

Funding: 
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The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) requires compulsory membership for all salaried employees with premium contributions automatically deducted through payroll. Contributions are calculated on a graduated scale based on income, with a majority contributing between KES 30 to KES 320 per month. For the self-employed and others in the informal sector, membership is contributory and is available for a fixed premium of 160 KES per month.

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) requires compulsory membership for all salaried employees with premium contributions automatically deducted through payroll. Contributions are calculated on a graduated scale based on income, with a majority contributing between KES 30 to KES 320 per month. For the self-employed and others in the informal sector, membership is contributory and is available for a fixed premium of 160 KES per month.

A new proposed measure has been gazetted in June 2010 that will see the first increase in premiums to the NHIF in almost two decades. This to between KES 150 to KES 2,000 per month, depending on income, with approximately 46,000 of the highest paid formal sector employees paying the maximum amount. Under this proposed change, premium payments for those in the informal sector would rise from KES 160 to KES 500 per month. Finally, under the proposed changes, other sectors of the government, development agencies, philanthropic organizations and other well-wishers would be able to purchase NHIF cover for indigent populations for a rate of KES 300 per person per month. Proposed changes are currently under judicial review and have not yet been implemented.

NHIF funding and payments to providers exist alongside supply-side payments from the government directly to public sector providers. In essence, the salaries of most physicians and other health workers are still paid via supply-side payments, with NHIF payments typically going toward facility charges, drugs, supplies and consumables, and other types of overhead.

Total health expenditure in Kenya, 2000 and 2006

2000 (US$)2006 (US$)
Total health expenditure726,433,040964,357,613
Source2000 (%)2006 (%)
Public (Central and Local Government)29.629.3
Private (Household and OOP)5439.3
Donors (Local and International)16.431
Other0.10.4

Source: Kenya Ministry of Health, 2009

Overall, Kenya spends approximately 5% of its GDP on health. There are 3 major sources of financing for the health care system: the government (both central and local); private contributions; and donors. Donor contributions to the health sector have been steadily increasing from 8% of the health budget in 2000 to 36% in 2008. Traditionally, donor funding has been allocated directly to specific programs, limiting the flexibility of the MOH to reallocate donor assistance to fit government priorities.

Public funding comes primarily from taxation, and allocations from the Ministry of Health (MOH), local governments, and parastatal organizations. Funding flows from the Ministry of Health (MOH) to the district level District Health Management Boards (DHMBs) and District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and supplemented by local government, revolving funds, and user fees. Since the 1970s, the real financing allocations to the public sector have declined, and in 2008 the MOH only spent approximately USD $11.80 per capita, well below the WHO recommended spending level of USD $34 per capita. This lack of funding is largely because tax revenues have proven to be an unreliable source of health finance. To fill the funding gap, MOH has pursued a policy of cost sharing, which places a higher burden for financing on out-of-pocket expenditures in both absolute terms and as a percentage of the health budget. This poses a serious financing issue for the 56% of the population who are considered poor. In 2004, the government attempted to minimize cost sharing through the institution of a “10/20” policy, in which local health facilities only charge 10 or 20 KES for curative care; this has decreased out-of-pocket expenditures from 54% of THE in 2000 to about 36% in 2009.

Population covered: 
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To be a member of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), one must simply be a Kenyan resident age 18 or older. NHIF covers certain dependents of the primary policy holder automatically, including spouses, children under the age of 18, students (even if over the age of 18), and disabled dependents. Other adult family members require separate premium contributions to be covered. NHIF is responsible for enrolling and registering all eligible members from the formal and informal sectors.

To be a member of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), one must simply be a Kenyan resident age 18 or older. NHIF covers certain dependents of the primary policy holder automatically, including spouses, children under the age of 18, students (even if over the age of 18), and disabled dependents. Other adult family members require separate premium contributions to be covered. NHIF is responsible for enrolling and registering all eligible members from the formal and informal sectors.

Total membership in NHIF rose from about 206,000 in 1998 to 1,372,000 in 2006. By 2011 about 2.7 million people were insured by NHIF, 2.1 million of which are employed in the formal sector. Approximately 88% of the people with insurance in Kenya are insured by the NHIF. However, currently only about 25% of the poor have medical coverage. Recently, NHIF has embarked on a program to work with community-based organizations to expand informal sector membership.

Benefits package: 
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The benefits package includes coverage of inpatient expenses with the share of expenses covered determined largely by the type of hospital. The NHIF’s hospital network is broken into three tiers of hospitals. At “Contract A” hospitals, which include primarily government hospitals, NHIF beneficiaries receive comprehensive cover with no overall limit on the amount of benefits received.

The benefits package includes coverage of inpatient expenses with the share of expenses covered determined largely by the type of hospital. The NHIF’s hospital network is broken into three tiers of hospitals. At “Contract A” hospitals, which include primarily government hospitals, NHIF beneficiaries receive comprehensive cover with no overall limit on the amount of benefits received. At “Contract B” hospitals, which include certain non-state providers (e.g., non-profit private hospitals, mission hospitals, and private hospitals in rural areas or areas not sufficiently served by the public sector), coverage remains comprehensive, but an annual limit of 432,000 KES per member (including the member and all dependents) applies. At “Contract B” hospitals, certain high cost surgeries may also carry a co-pay, which can be as high as 80% of the professional portion of the cost (with facility and hospitalization charges still covered with no co-pay). Finally, at “Contract C” hospitals, which include many higher cost private hospitals, the NHIF provides a rebate only, which generally ranges from KES 400 to KES 2,000 per day of hospitalization. Stays over 5 days in “Contract C” hospitals require prior authorization, and the total number of days covered in this type of hospital cannot exceed 180 days per beneficiary annually.

The benefits package includes comprehensive medical coverage for maternity cases. NHIF works with a wide network of over 600 accredited Government, private and mission health providers spread across the country and reimburses hospital claims as per agreed contracts. In 2010, changes were gazetted that call for an increase in contributions from members. The increase in charges would include an expansion of services to outpatient care, including unlimited general consultation with doctors, unlimited prescribed laboratory tests, medicines, as well as coverage of all costs related to diseases that require specialists, and the unlimited management of chronic illnesses and ailments such as HIV/AIDs, diabetes, and hypertension. These changes in member contributions and services are under judicial review and have not yet been fully implemented.

Preventative care currently falls outside of the NHIF and under the purview of the Ministry of Health. Preventative care available to all Kenyans includes a number of services that were originally defined under the NHSSP 2. The benefits extended to the population depend on cohort life stage, and are provided primarily by the Ministry of Health (MOH), local governments, and parastatal organizations.

Service delivery system: 
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National Hospital Insurance Fund contracts with about 600 health facilities that are managed by both the public and private sector throughout Kenya’s 8 provinces. About 150 of these facilities are state-run, while the remaining hospitals are managed by private and mission organizations. Individuals who are members of NHIF are able to access their benefits at any of the hospitals affiliated with NHIF regardless of locations.

National Hospital Insurance Fund contracts with about 600 health facilities that are managed by both the public and private sector throughout Kenya’s 8 provinces. About 150 of these facilities are state-run, while the remaining hospitals are managed by private and mission organizations. Individuals who are members of NHIF are able to access their benefits at any of the hospitals affiliated with NHIF regardless of locations.

NHIF has an accreditation and contracting process with is administered at the branch level of the NHIF. This process begins with the hospital submitting an application to join the NHIF network. The NHIF branch manager then visits the hospital and uses a master checklist to rate the hospital based on a diverse set of standards including physical infrastructure, personnel, and services offered. The NHIF then works with hospital management to set up a Quality training process and a Quality improvement program, and train hospital staff on the operational procedures of the NHIF. Contracts are generally signed for a period of 2 years, with evaluations by the NHIF branch management at 6-month intervals which are submitted to the NHIF board for review.

Outpatient services are not currently covered by the NHIF. In 2008 there were 4,700 health facilities nationwide, 51% of which were owned and operated by the central government, 34% were operated privately, and 15% were maintained by non-governmental organizations, foreign-based organizations, or religious groups. The private sector provides about 60% of the total medical equipment and supplies. The private sector plays a large role healthcare system, especially in the field of facilities and personnel; 47% of the poorest quintile of Kenyans uses a private facility when a child is sick.

All health facilities are integrated in a hierarchy with the most sophisticated services available at the national level. The next best level of care is found in the provincial hospitals, followed by sub-district hospitals. At local and sub location levels service is provided through health centers and dispensaries, these account for about 85% of all health facilities in the country. The focus on decentralization has delegated increasing amounts of daily management to the community and district levels as the health system has progressed. The quality of care provided by health facilities is unequally distributed across the country; only 30% of the rural population has access to health facilities within 4 kilometers, while such access is available to 70% of urban dwellers.

Institutional structures: 
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When the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) was transformed from a department of the Ministry of Health to a State Corporation, the management of the organization switched to become an all-inclusive board composed of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MOH), Central Organisation of Trade Unions, Directorate of Personnel Management, Kenya National Union of Teachers, Director of Medical Services, Federation of Kenya Employers, Association Kenya Insurers, Christian Health Association of Kenya, Kenya Medical Association and an additional, rotating member of civil society. In all, 2/3 of the board comes from outside of the ranks of the government itself. The NHIF board makes the primary decisions regarding management of NHIF. The Board suggests an annual budget which is then voted on by the National Assembly.

When the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) was transformed from a department of the Ministry of Health to a State Corporation, the management of the organization switched to become an all-inclusive board composed of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MOH), Central Organisation of Trade Unions, Directorate of Personnel Management, Kenya National Union of Teachers, Director of Medical Services, Federation of Kenya Employers, Association Kenya Insurers, Christian Health Association of Kenya, Kenya Medical Association and an additional, rotating member of civil society. In all, 2/3 of the board comes from outside of the ranks of the government itself. The NHIF board makes the primary decisions regarding management of NHIF. The Board suggests an annual budget which is then voted on by the National Assembly. The NHIF has decentralized its operations to 31 local branches and 82 service points across the country. These branches are responsible for claims processing and quality assurance, enrollment and collection of premiums (especially from informal sector employees and other ‘voluntary’ enrollees), and marketing of the program. The branches also implement quality programs alongside contracted providers, and execute most of the monitoring and evaluation programs within the NHIF.

Since its separation from the MOH, the NHIF is no longer held directly accountable by the MOH. Several new mechanisms for ensuring accountability have been instituted, however. These include the Board’s Audit and Integrity Subcommittee, the Auditor General of the Kenyan Government (which files annual reports to the Parliament on the performance of each government agency, including the NHIF), the NHIF’s Efficiency Monitoring Unit (which handles complaints and performs periodic audits of the operations of the agency) and finally the NHIF Ombudsman (which receives and mediates complaints).

NHIF Institutional Framework

NHIF Branch Structure Source: National Hospital Insurance Fund The Kenyan health system is administered from the top down by the Ministry of Health (MOH), which was broken into two Ministries after the post-election turmoil of 2007: the Ministry of Medical Services, and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. Kenya has a Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) to coordinate and support the health care system, which incorporates health partners on all levels. The role of the central government is to formulate policy, set priorities, budget and allocate resources, and regulate service provision through a decentralized framework. Provinces, districts and local community areas are increasingly responsible for implementation and day to day management of the health system.

Implementing partners and development partners aid the MOH in implementing health plans by providing services such as funding, specialized care, research, training or health insurance. The majority of them are parastatals who receive a portion of their annual funds from the Government of Kenya and have to raise the other part themselves through cost sharing or other sources, such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund, the Kenyatta National Hospital, and Kenya Medical Research Institute, though they can also be private organizations.

Provider payment mechanisms: 
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The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and private insurers have negotiated fixed reimbursement rates for in-patient care. The reimbursement amount varies slightly with the level of provider, the diagnosis, and the type of care required. “Contract A” and “Contract B” providers are typically reimbursed through case based or fee-for-service provider payments. “Contract C” providers are reimbursed through a per diem rebate system. Claims are submitted by hospitals directly to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), and then hospitals are paid for procedures and users are reimbursed. Most claims are reimbursed within 14 days of the claim received. This process is computerized and is designed to be transparent to the providers.

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and private insurers have negotiated fixed reimbursement rates for in-patient care. The reimbursement amount varies slightly with the level of provider, the diagnosis, and the type of care required. “Contract A” and “Contract B” providers are typically reimbursed through case based or fee-for-service provider payments. “Contract C” providers are reimbursed through a per diem rebate system. Claims are submitted by hospitals directly to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), and then hospitals are paid for procedures and users are reimbursed. Most claims are reimbursed within 14 days of the claim received. This process is computerized and is designed to be transparent to the providers.

Moving forward, the NHIF intends to increasingly employ case-based payments for inpatient services. As the NHIF adds outpatient care to the benefits package with implementation of the recently gazette changes, capitation to comprehensive-care facilities will be the intended payment mechanisms. The fee-for-service system has been identified as one of the key drivers of escalating health care costs, as it creates incentives to encourage over-servicing and supplier-induced demand.

The majority of services covered by the NHIF are delivered through private facilities, indicating a preference by the bulk of salaried workers (who make up the majority of those covered by NHIF) toward private providers rather than public institutions.

Of overall health expenditures in Kenya, Secondary and Tertiary care providers traditionally absorb approximately 70% of health expenditures, though health centers and primary care units provide the bulk of services. Health personnel expenditures are high—accounting for about 50% of the budget—compared to expenditures on drugs, pharmaceuticals, and operations and maintenance. Expenditures for curative care constitute more than 48% of the total MOH budget.

Health care facilities also receive payments from the Ministry of Health (MOH), which releases funds to the district and national level hospitals. Allocations to the district health centers and dispensaries are in the form of line-item budgets, whereas national level hospitals receive global budgets. Salaries to staff are paid directly by the MOH. Drugs are also procured centrally, by the Kenya Medical Suppliers Agency (KEMSA) and then delivered to district and local level facilities. At the local level, the process of disbursement of funds is slow, which causes uncertainty for the providers, impedes their planning process, and encourages district level managers to await funding before they procure services, and creates an incentive to under-service clients.

Monitoring and evaluation: 
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The monitoring and evaluation functions of the NHIF are handled by the Office of Strategy and Planning, which designs practices and programs for M&E and manages their implementation across the organization. Most M&E programs are implemented in practice at the Branch level.

The monitoring and evaluation functions of the NHIF are handled by the Office of Strategy and Planning, which designs practices and programs for M&E and manages their implementation across the organization. Most M&E programs are implemented in practice at the Branch level.

In the absence of a specific overall national policy and regulatory framework for the health information system, the monitoring and evaluation of the overall system is highly fragmented and not particularly well-geared towards performance assessment for the whole health sector, and particularly for the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). On the Advisory Board of NHIF there are positions which are designed to monitor and evaluate functioning of the Fund including: General Manager Benefits and Quality Assurance; General Manager Internal Audit & Compliance; General Manager Finance & Control and General Manager Operations & Marketing.

The broader health system has attempted to increase performance based monitoring that is linked to a specific set of indicators, outputs, and targets. Districts are expected to adopt and use the same sector performance indicators for their daily work. The Ministry of Health attempts to incentivize performance and engage Kenya Medical Training College and other organizations to help develop a strategy to integrate targets, improve supervision and management at all levels, and initiate regular clinical audits. These are incorporated into a Kenya Quality Model (KQM), which defines a national policy for quality and reform of the health system. Performance indicators are measured during joint annual reviews and annual summits. However, current available statistics are not optimal, and there are large gaps in the data, which prevents effective monitoring and performance evaluation.

NHIF’s Financial operations are monitored by the Controller and Auditor General of the Republic of Kenya whereas operational efficiency is supervised by the Inspectorate of State Corporation. The reports from these bodies are submitted to Parliamentary Committees of Health; and Public Investments.

Results of the reform: 
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The Household Health Expenditure and Utilization survey of 2005 found utilization rates of health care for those with insurance increased between 1990 and 2003 to 77.2% of ill people seeking healthcare, while the national utilization rate increased to 1.92 visits per person annually. In addition, out of pocket expenditure on health care has decreased from about 51% of the funding in 2001 to 36% in 2008. Few substantial results have been seen with regards to disease levels.

The Household Health Expenditure and Utilization survey of 2005 found utilization rates of health care for those with insurance increased between 1990 and 2003 to 77.2% of ill people seeking healthcare, while the national utilization rate increased to 1.92 visits per person annually. In addition, out of pocket expenditure on health care has decreased from about 51% of the funding in 2001 to 36% in 2008. Few substantial results have been seen with regards to disease levels. In addition, while access to health care increased for those with insurance, there is still a persistent concern that access to health insurance continues to remain out of reach for a large percentage of the population, especially poor, vulnerable, and pastoral people. This indicates that while NHIF is helpful in covering those who are able to afford it, the scope of those who now have access to health insurance has not been greatly expanded.

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