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850 Kenyan hospitals sue national insurance fund over biometric patient registration

850 Kenyan hospitals sue national insurance fund over biometric patient registration

850 hospitals are suing Kenya’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in a dispute over the requirement to install equipment to biometrically register and verify patients and submit e-claims for payments. The sudden introduction of the system is preventing people from accessing healthcare claim the petitioners.

This biometric system is separate to the controversial biometric identity card known as Huduma Namba. Patients with valid national ID cards or NHIF cards would still not be able to access medical care without having their biometrics registered again on the new NHIF system.

The hospitals submitting the urgent case are part of the Rural Private Hospitals Association and claim the NHIF board announced changes without consultation and without sufficient notice, making the changes null and void according to the NHIF Act, reports The Business Daily.

The NHIF is conducting a mass biometric registration exercise of its members with the aim of tackling fraud and to speed up the payment of medical claims. The Fund will require member hospitals not only to have the equipment and to verify patients who pay into the NHIF, around 51 percent of the population.

The NHIF CEO, Peter Kamunyo, has defended the swathe of reforms to the NHIF in a column for The Nation. The Fund is being prepared for universal health coverage when contributions will become compulsory for all Kenyan adults.

“Internal reforms include the restructuring of human resources and digitisation to enhance efficiency and curb fraud,” writes Kamunyo.

The healthcare facilities claim the biometric registration and e-claim systems are not recognized by the NHIF Act. They argue they would also have to bear the costs of new equipment and software licenses. Likewise, hospitals will be unable to manually process claims for repayment of patient care through the NHIF as is currently enshrined in law.

The Huduma Namba biometric ID system is also coming under renewed criticism for its exclusionary practices this week as a High Court advocate criticized access to the document.

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