Health insurance is a vital part of any health system as it helps individuals pay for services that are otherwise unaffordable. Kenya has recently instituted universal health care however, there is still a large portion of the population that does not receive the benefits of health care coverage. In a study published in the Health Systems and Reform Journal, researchers found that between 2015 and 2016, only about 19% of the total population in Kenya was covered by some form of health coverage. Though President Kenyatta has set out to reform the NHIF to expand the coverage of the program it is still likely that many Kenyans will not receive the benefits of Health insurance.
There is a solution however, one that has existed for a number of years but has been rarely used. This solution is microinsurance, a special type of health insurance with lower premiums than a regular insurance plan and covers basic needs such as disease management and treatment. In addition, many individuals and families use basic microinsurance to cover their homes, farms, and livestock in case of a natural disaster or other destructive emergencies. This year, many companies have started to offer microinsurance in supplementation to their already existing plans as well as on its own as a separate coverage option. However, there have been many obstacles for microinsurance being used by the average citizen that insurance companies such as GA Insurance, one of the oldest insurance companies in Kenya, are starting to realize.
First, very few people actually know about this type of health insurance, to most the NHIF seems like one of the only options for insurance coverage which is why they don’t seek out other, possibly viable options. Additionally, companies are doing a poor job of reaching out to communities that could benefit from microinsurance. Although it may seem hard to identify viable candidates it is actually quite easy due to the large amount of data that insurance companies and the larger medical system as a whole now has access to which can make outreach to people in need of insurance that much easier. Another challenge with microinsurance is how it is distributed. Because this type of insurance does not operate the same way that most other plans do, companies are often unsuccessful in reaching their customers and delivering the product to the end-consumer.
Many of these issues are easily fixable though. As awareness of microinsurance begins to spread not only through government and insurance companies but also through media outlets and word of mouth, more individuals will be able to take advantage of these programs to receive very important health services. Companies are also beginning to use their data more effectively so as they get better at identifying viable candidates for microinsurance plans, they will be able to more effectively market and service these people. Lastly, as insurance companies develop easier ways to pay for services (such as through M-PESA or other electronic payment systems) more individuals will be willing to join programs because payment will be easier, but this is just a single part of the distribution solution. Next, insurance companies will need to start to decentralize their efforts. Most insurance companies in Kenya are centered in urban centers such as Mombasa and Nairobi and as a result they only usually cover people living in these areas and areas with larger populations. By branching out to rural parts of Kenya with the microinsurance plans, a larger part of the country can be covered. Moving forward, the burden falls on government and insurance companies. However, with more reforms being planned recently to improve the NHIF and expand coverage, the future is looking bright for those not covered and the growth of microinsurance.