How higher hospitals fees have strained household budgets
Kenya’s top private hospitals increased outpatient consultation charges by up to 78 per cent in the past one and a half years, piling the pressure on insurance premiums and general cost of healthcare, industry data shows.
The hospitals, including Mater and MP Shah, raised the consultation charges by between Sh100 and Sh1,100, pointing to the rising cost of labour, utility fees and depreciation of the Kenyan shilling.
The increases are likely to further lock out poor households from accessing the top quality health services that the private hospitals offer, even as public hospitals struggle to improve the quality of treatment against massive budget constraints.
A comparison between the current consultation charges and those in 2014 shows that MP Shah Hospital had a Sh1,100 increase in consultation fee, which now stands at Sh2,500 compared to Sh1,400 one and a half years ago, a 78 per cent rise.
Consultation fees at Mater Hospital rose 23 per cent from Sh1,300 one and a half years ago to Sh1,600 currently.
Some hospitals, including Nairobi Hospital (Sh2,000), Karen Hospital (Sh1,800) and Pandya Hospital in Mombasa (Sh1,000), have, however, maintained their rates over the period of two years.
Medical insurers have reacted to these increments with an increase in premiums that have in turn pushed health insurance beyond many low-income households.
“Our premiums are up by 15 per cent beginning April 1 for outpatient cover,” Ms Margaret Oyugi, the head of actuarial at Resolution Health, told the Business Daily.
“Unlike inpatient services, outpatient is the most used service that is significantly affected by any increase in charges. Inpatient is not so much utilised and even if the costs go up the impact is not severe,” Ms Oyugi said.
The increase in charges is not limited to consultation, with higher bed and laboratory test fees widening the gulf between what a majority of Kenyans can afford and the actual charges.
Households without medical insurance will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets to fund the higher cost of healthcare that has blocked millions of poor families from accessing quality treatment. Only a quarter of Kenya’s population has medical insurance — mostly provided by formal sector employers.
The increases in premiums have added a direct cost burden on companies and individuals, who buy health insurance, risking a slowdown in growth.
This comes at a time when many firms are looking to cut costs in a challenging business environment.
Source: Business Daily