Kenya Government’s “mess with” Health Insurance Fund Harming Healthcare Provision: Bishop

Bishop Michael Odiwa of Kenya's Homa Bay Diocese during the world Day for the Sick. Credit: Sr. Irene Muhanga

The current state of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Kenya’s parastatal that provides universal health coverage (UHC) to citizens through a medical insurance cover, is harming the provision of healthcare to citizens of the East African nation, the Catholic Bishop of the country’s Homa Bay Diocese has said.

Speaking on the occasion of the annual World Day for the Sick that the Department of Health of his Episcopal See celebrated on February 16, Bishop Michael Cornelius Otieno Odiwa  criticized the Kenyan government’s planned restructuring of NHIF to the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) set to commence operations in March 2024, and advocated for the restoration of NHIF.

“Healthcare provision is at the moment dwindling because of the government’s mess with the NHIF,” Bishop Odiwa said during the event that was held at St. Theresa's Mission Hospital, which is under the management of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph (FSJ/Asumbi Sisters Kenya).

The fact that Kenyans contribute to the NHIF kitty should guarantee their healthcare needs, he said, and added, “If the government fails to give people healthcare through what they have contributed, then it is theft.”

“We are asking the government to be responsible in what Kenyans are contributing for … because it is their right,” Bishop Odiwa emphasized, and alluding to fears about the planned implementation of SHIF, added, “We want to ask this government to make sure that NHIF is restored.”


He went on to recall the promises that President William Samoei Ruto and his political allies made during the electioneering period that culminated in the August 2022 general elections, and urged them to walk their talk.

“When this government got into power, they promised that no one would ever get sick and fail to get services. And that is where precisely we are, talking without doing, the reverse of what they told us,” he said.

The 61-year-old Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Homa Bay Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in February 2021 called upon the people of God under his pastoral care to pray and fast during the Lenten Season for Kenya’s political leaders to “get back to their senses.”

“With modern technology and discovery, we thank God that some of those ailments that were hard to discover, verify … can now be easily identified” and treated, he said during the February 16 event at St. Theresa's Mission Hospital, where he blessed the new Radiology Department (X-ray & Ultrasound Machines) and the Physiotherapy wing.

Bishop Odiwa urged “everyone to appreciate the role of God in integral healing of the human person: Body and Soul,” and added, “We hope these human inventions (and) achievements will bring relief to the sick and the suffering.”

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Credit: Sr. Irene Muhanga

The Local Ordinary of Homa Bay acknowledged with appreciation members of the Health Department of his Episcopal See for their “effort and commitment to supporting life”.

Bishop Odiwa’s criticism of the Kenyan government regarding NHIF comes days after Bishop Norman King’oo Wambua of Kenya’s Machakos Diocese faulted the same parastatal for being “dysfunctional and negatively affecting the offering of services in health institutions”.

Bishop King’oo, who was speaking during the Diocesan Pilgrimage and Thanksgiving Mass held at the Komarock Shrine in his Episcopal See on February 10 lamented, “As faith leaders in areas where we have hospitals, the debt owed to our institutions by NHIF is worrying. They are outrightly crippling our hospitals.”

Last November, members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) expressed concern about NHIF’s inefficiency, and lamented “the backlog of huge unpaid reimbursements to Mission Health Institutions that support the health provision at the grassroots.”


“Among the many Faith Institutions, the Catholic Mission Hospitals are still owed over 1Billion Shillings by NHIF,” KCCB members said during the 10 November 2023 press conference at the end of their Plenary Assembly, which was held at St. Mary’s Pastoral Centre in the Diocese of Nakuru.

They added, “We are still worried about what may happen after the planned reorganization of NHIF. There should be a clear plan to pay these arrears.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.