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2023 Health Act: Which way for Kenya?

Dec 25, 2023
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On November 28, 2023, the high court of Kenya slammed brakes on the implementation of the implementation of Social Health Insurance Fund Act, Primary Health Care Act, and Digital Health Care Act until a case challenging its legality is heard and determined.

This was barely a week after the health cabinet secretary Susan Nakhumicha issued a gazette notice on the operationalization of the social health insurance fund.

The notice indicated that universal health coverage would be implemented and rolled out on January 1, 2023.
“…a conservatory order is hereby issued restraining the respondents (President William Ruto, CSs in the Ministry of Health and Information, the Attorney General, Commission for Revenue Collection, The National Assembly, and the Senate), their agents, and or anyone acting on their directives from implementing and or enforcing The Social Health Insurance Act, 2023; The Primary Health Care
Act, 2023 and the Digital Health Act, 2023 until February 7, 2024.” Mwita ordered.

Concerns have been raised as the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) slowly wound on how effective the Social Health (SHA) will be and if it comes to pass or the court will term it illegal like the housing levy.

The government has not issued clear guidelines on how the contributions that have already been made to the NHIF will be transferred to the new system.
Speaking to SHA chairperson Timothy Olweny asserts that the contributions have already been updated and that there will be a smooth transmission.

“When the signing of the Social Health Authority happened, NHIF contribution was transferred to the Social Health Insurance Fund. We are working to ensure a smooth transition as it is our priority.” Olweny explained.

He added that a registration period in which every Kenyan will be required to register to the new funding will be issued and digitalized with 90 days.

According to Olweny, the government will issue a registration period in which every Kenyan will be required to register for the new funding system.

The Kenya Kwanza government indicated that this is part of the measures they are taking to cut the corruption that has been going on at the NHIF.

The Act is part of the many that were passed in 2023 by the Kenya Kwanza government with Kenyans complaining of over-taxation which has made Kenyans nickname the president Ruto “Zakayo.”
New taxes were introduced in the 2023/2024 financial year with the old ones being raised.

They include: a 1.5% housing tax, a 2.75% hospital insurance fund levy, a 3% turnover (gross sales) tax on small businesses, and a doubling of taxes on fuel to 16%, among others.

President Ruto who during the 60 th Jamhuri day celebration acknowledged the taxes are painful said the taxes are meant to reduce government borrowing and bring down the national debt, which has increased to Sh10 trillion shillings.

The pain of taxes has dominated everyday conversations in Kenya as the cost of living has continued to rise.
Kenyans say the taxes are only helping to fund extravagance in government rather than improve public services.

On November 28, 2023, the high court declared the housing levy unconstitutional.

A three-judge bench consisting of Lawrence Mugambi, Christine Meoli, and David Majanja that was appointed by Chief Justice Martha Koome declared it unconstitutional on the basis that it is discriminatory to impose a tax on salaried Kenyans alone and excludes those working in the informal sector.

The housing levy was a cardinal pillar of the 2023 Finance Act was formally introduced in July this year with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) being mandated as the collector.

Last week controversy arose after the president asserted that he would not be intimidated by the ruling of courts and that he would do everything possible to continue getting the housing levy.

“We will do so candidly, boldly and won’t be threatened or intimidated from challenging any government decision that offends the Constitution. The Constitution of Kenya is our sword and we will swing it against impunity,” he asserted.

Employers have been remitting 1.5 per cent alongside a similar rate for their employees.

The president William Ruto-led government had cited that the 1.5 percent deduction would enable them to achieve their plan of constructing affordable houses for low-income Kenyans.

The Finance Bill 2023 was passed by parliament on June 22, 2023, and later assented by President William Ruto on June 26. 
The High Court later suspended the implementation of the act on June 30, after multiple petitions were filed but the appellate court later lifted the suspension of the bill whose implementation began immediately.

Last week, president William Ruto steered controversy after he vowed to slash ‘cartels’ opposing the housing levy and the health fund.

He vowed to use the ceremonial sword to deal with people who were determined to
sabotage his legacy projects.

According to Ruto, those opposing the SHIF have no genuine reason to do so adding that the amount of contribution will be reduced.

“These people are saying that those who do not have medical insurance should not be given one. They are saying that the amount being contributed should not be reduced from Sh500 to Sh300.” He said.

He asserted that advocates, like himself, will not be intimidated.

Read Also:Kenyans in Diaspora Condemn President Ruto’s Alleged Dictatorial Rule, Urge Focus on Anti-Corruption Efforts

“We will do so candidly, boldly and won’t be threatened or intimidated from challenging any government decision that offends the Constitution. The Constitution of Kenya is our sword and we will swing it against impunity.” He asserted.

It is now unclear what Kenyans should expect as the court allowed the government to continue collecting the housing levy.

The citizens are also not sure if NHIF will be defunct by January and what will they be using as the ruling on the SHIF is expected much later in the second month of the year.

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