The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) wants changes announced by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) suspended and a meeting of all stakeholders convened to discuss the way forward.
The union on Sunday expressed concern that the changes were likely to lock over 10 million workers out of the health cover scheme and discourage people from joining it.
Cotu Deputy Secretary-General Benson Okwaro termed the changes punitive, retrogressive, and irresponsible, claiming they were being pushed by individuals hell-bent on hampering the smooth running of NHIF.
Addressing reporters at Solidarity Building in Nairobi, Mr Okwaro said the changes are aimed at frustrating workers, who religiously make payments to the NHIF.
“It is absurd that the NHIF board has seen it, in its own wisdom, the desire to come up with far-reaching changes in the management of members’ benefits without any consultation. We will not sit back and watch NHIF mismanage its resources,” he said.
“We will not be party to such punitive changes against our members and we are ready to explore all avenues to stop NHIF’s reckless attempts to do so,” he added.
Cotu has written to NHIF acting Chief Executive Officer Nicodemus Odongo and the fund’s board to convene an urgent meeting to iron out the sticky issues in the announced changes, he said.
“We don’t want unnecessary squabbles with NHIF. We want it to continue providing services to the people but these changes must be withdrawn immediately,,” Mr Okwaro said.
In a memo dated January 7 and addressed to all regional and branch managers, and senior registration and compliance officers, NHIF made a raft of changes that will punish defaulters.
The changes, which took effect on January 1, will affect voluntary members who pay Sh500 monthly.
For instance, the members will have to wait six months after registration to access maternity services at any hospital.
Further, the fund restricts access to maternity benefits to post-card maturity for principal members or spouses declared at the point of registration.
Also, with effect from January 1, a member can include only one spouse and five children as dependants.
Members who default for a year or more will start paying afresh and be eligible for benefits after 90 days from the date of resumption of payment, with a year’s payment upfront.