There were a lot of deliberations as the Commercial Bank of Africa held its 6th economic forum at Serena Hotel in Nairobi. The forum was aimed at making projections on the Universal Health program that was rolled out by the government in 2017. Moving forward, partnerships with the private sector is the way to go in order to achieve the program’s mandate.
Universal Healthcare has been an issue of concern. The success of the economy of the country is actually pegged to how healthy the citizenry is. This fact has seen a considerable rise in the budgetary allocation to the health sector. In 2018/19 Financial Year, the government increased its allocation to health by 56% from Ksh. 56.8 billion to 97.08 billion and maintained it at 93.08 billion in the 2019/20 budget.
Among the key areas that stood out at the forum was the need to increase Universal Health coverage to the vulnerable and marginalized communities. This is seen as a crucial aspect in the building of a strong economic foundation that would last to benefit generations to come.
The importance of the private sector in universal health coverage is also a key aspect of the realization of the agenda. The private sector is seen as an alternative means of supporting the optimization of health services. For instance, the opportunities available to the private sector in the universal health coverage include Diagnostics as well as Training. This is seen as a viable method to optimize the reach of universal health coverage to the grassroots.
Indeed, the private sector provides a considerable 45% of all healthcare services in the health sector. As such, the increase in communicable diseases, and the booming population growth in the country has pressured and stretched the government budget and widened the scale of the total investment. This has validated the need for partnership with the private sector.
An annual total of Ksh 360 billion is spent by the private sector and the public sector on health. This calls for further meaningful partnerships in many areas to ensure there is ease of reach.
The public-private partnership will be important as the government aims to device sound financing and mechanisms that will help in mitigating risks. This will considerably lower the government’s financial burden and leverage the managerial capabilities of the private sector. The private sector will then get opportunities to expand and scale-up opportunities.
Given that a cumulative total of 23% of county spending is on healthcare, there is a need for a more symbiotic relationship between the central government and the county government to ensure that there is a flow of funds into the Universal Health program ecosystem without conflict.
The government also needs to facilitate an enabling environment to prompt investment in healthcare through price regulation on health and medical practice. This is seen as a way to widen the reach of universal health coverage.
The private sector is also seen as a channel for addressing the acute shortage of skilled health workers. With adequate training services, the private sector has the potential to address the need for more skilled medical personnel.
Alternative ways for the optimization and the support of health services lie in the private sector. The right channels and means to harnessing this potential will help mitigate the many challenges that confront the universal healthcare program.
The Chief Administrative Secretary at the Ministry of Health Dr. Rashid A. Aman took the view that the financial sector also plays an important role in ensuring there is effective universal health coverage.
He said, “In this regard, financial sector experts, banks and investors play a key role in the provision of innovative financing solutions that are geared towards pre-payment for health. The government will facilitate an enabling environment through interventions that will manage the cost of healthcare including the price regulation of essential medicines and commodities which will reduce the high claim cost experienced by both NHIF and private medical insurers.”
Also present at the event was CBA’s Kenya CEO Jeremy Ngunze who said that universal health is the backbone of the economy. He said, “Investment in health is not only desirable but also an essential priority for our societies. Health is the greatest social capital a nation can have. Without healthy, productive citizenship, a country can’t be economically stable.”
Millions of Kenyans do not have access to quality and affordable healthcare. This has largely been attributed to the high poverty levels with an estimated 30% of Kenyans living on less than $ 2.0 a day.
The country is committed to making positive progress as far as universal health coverage is concerned. Health coverage has indeed been made one of the pillars of the economic policy framework.
Since the promulgation of the 2010 constitution, the healthcare system in the country has been the largest devolved service.
There is a need to mobilize adequate resources, increase investments in primary healthcare and reform institutions like the National Hospital Insurance Fund, which are crucial in reducing the out-of-pocket spending on healthcare.
In Kenya, while revenue allocation to the health sector has improved in absolute terms, only 5% of revenues are allocated to health. As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, the sector only receives 1.5% in funding. That is a bit worrying given the health situation in the country.