Kenya Edges Closer to Universal Health Coverage

> Posted by Center Staff

A mother and child stand outside a health clinic where they both received check-ups and necessary vitamins and vaccines. Great Rift Valley Region, Kenya

In Kenya, where public health insurance has been available since 1965 and access to health care is a constitutional right, only 20 percent of the country actually has access to some sort of medical coverage, according to the World Bank. With a population of 44 million, this means that 35 million are excluded from coverage and millions are unable to afford services at private or public health facilities. In terms of the money spent, about one quarter of health care services spending in Kenya comes out of pocket. Each year, about one million Kenyans fall below the poverty line because of health care related expenses. Recent investments in the industry indicate that this grim reality could be changing, however, and soon.

A few days ago fund manager LeapFrog Investments bought a majority stake in Resolution Insurance, Kenya’s fourth largest insurance provider, for $18.7 million. The new funds will go towards realizing Resolution’s growth strategy of diversifying product offerings and extending services access to more Kenyans and other East Africans. The investment comes at an exciting time for both investors and providers. Though coverage remains low overall, the industry is growing rapidly. The non-life insurance market in Kenya is expanding at 20 percent annually, with health insurance at 38 percent annually. The deal is currently undergoing final regulatory processes.

Beyond Resolution Insurance, LeapFrog recently raised $400 million which it says will go toward investments in financial services across Africa and Asia, with a quarter of funds reserved for East Africa.

A few months ago, the Kenyan government, in partnership with the IFC, UKAid, the Gates Foundation, and others launched a collaborative Health Insurance Subsidy Program (HISP). The program offers Kenyans health insurance subsidies for coverage of care at public and private facilities. Administered through Kenya’s National Hospital Insurance Fund under its Ministry of Health, the first phase of the program covers 125,000 Kenyans and 23,500 families. These lower-income individuals were selected by the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Services to ensure that the program was addressing those in need.

Of the program, Cheikh Oumar Seydi, IFC’s regional director for East and Southern Africa said, “HISP is part of the World Bank Group’s Health in Africa Initiative’s support to the Kenyan Government’s priority agenda of achieving universal health coverage by expanding medical cover to the poorest and vulnerable.”

If successful, HISP will scale up to include nine million Kenyans.

Photo credit: Julia D/Flickr.

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