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Patients using National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cards to pay for treatment were Tuesday left stranded following a system outage that lasted hours.

Thousands of patients were forced to make cash payments or wait until the services were restored. Inquiries revealed that the system outage was first reported on Monday evening and had not cleared by Tuesday evening.

The NHIF confirmed the hitch even as many patients took to social media to complain about missed important health procedures after their payment bills could not be processed, forcing them to delay treatment and suffer more pain.

“Jambo, due to minor technical disruptions, you may experience delays in access or services today. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” NHIF said in a text message to registered members.

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“Dear member, due to unavoidable circumstances, we are experiencing disruptions/degradation in our services. We will update you as soon as services are fully restored,” read another message.

The development puts the NHIF in a difficult position at a time when it is having problems with health facilities across the country over debts, a situation that has forced patients to pay for services in cash.

The Rural Private Hospitals Association of Kenya (Rupha) and the Kenya Association of Private Hospitals have pulled out of the NHIF over billions of shillings in debts that have accumulated over the years.

State preparedness
Rupha two weeks ago revealed that NHIF owes its members Sh2.3 billion for general claims, Sh2 billion for the Linda Mama programme, and Sh1.8 billion for outpatient claims, an amount that has crippled operations.

Rupha further claimed that the NHIF had not been remitting money to these healthcare facilities until March when it paid Sh56 million to pay facilities that had pending capitation for January-March quarter.

The piling challenges facing NHIF have raised doubts on the State’s preparedness for the transition to the Social Health Authority (SHA), the medical scheme that will replace the NHIF.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has, however, emphasised that there will be a seamless transition following the enactment of the Universal Health Coverage Bills.

“Under my leadership, I will ensure that the transition between the SHA and the NHIF is smooth and seamless,” Ms Nakumicha said.

“There should be no fear or panic, it’s all for the greater good. As a ministry, your welfare is our top priority, including the protection of all your hard-earned benefits,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

—Source: NMG 

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