Insure healthcare workers to win COVID war

As published on on November 19th 2021

On realising that Covid-19 might become a permanent feature of life, the insurance industry is developing related products specific to health workers and allied professionals.

This development is cognizant of the reality that no national Covid-19 response strategy can succeed without adequate protection of frontline health workers.

In response, insurers, local and international reinsurance companies and an actuarial firm have come together to provide a comprehensive insurance solution for all public and private health workers in Kenya.

In retrospect, the warning made with a light touch by Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, to Kenyans following the reporting of the first Covid-19 case, not to treat the disease “normally,” was timely.

Roughly 20 months later, Covid-19 has evidently treated not only Kenya but the entire world “abnormally.” The global health crisis resulting from the pandemic has been unprecedented in scale and extent.

As of October 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 234.5 million Covid-19 cases with global cumulative deaths reaching 4.8 million.

Further, economists estimate that the Covid-19 global recession is one of the deepest in human history. It is comparable only to what was experienced at the end of World War I, which resulted in a more than 90 percent contraction in the per capita GDP of the global economy.

Many countries have containment measures, including travel bans, border closures, mandatory quarantine requirements, vaccine rollouts, widespread testing and contact tracing.

Kenya used similar measures aimed at flattening the epidemiological curve to stem the transmission of the virus.

These measures were critical to ensuring that the health system was not overwhelmed and that there was still capacity to meet the healthcare needs of Covid-19 patients who needed hospitalisation while still dealing with other healthcare provision services.

While most Kenyans were instructed to remain at home, healthcare workers who fall into the category of frontline workers had to report to work despite the risk of infection.

Globally, it has been unanimously agreed that an effective Covid-19 response requires that health workers be assured of high-quality care due to their occupational hazards such as pathogen exposure with increased social risk, long working hours, fatigue, stigma, physical and psychological violence.

Burden of care

Given their key role in the fight against the virus, employers and managers in health facilities should, among other responsibilities, honour health workers’ rights to “compensation, rehabilitation and curative services if infected with Covid-19 following exposure in the workplace”.

Leaving the entire burden of care, especially for public sector health workers, to the Government may indeed be unrealistic.

Through submissions it made to the Senate Health Committee recently, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), highlighted the difficulties it has encountered in covering Covid-19.

With NHIF projecting cumulative national hospital admissions attributed to severe Covid-19 at 17,458 of which 1,293 would need critical care, at a minimum cost of Sh1.09 billion, the burden of cover is daunting.

Furthermore, the per-day unit costs for case management for severe cases are estimated to cost Sh13,137.07 while per-day unit costs for case management for the critical disease are estimated at Sh63,243.11.

Resulting from the above, insurance providers have come up with a comprehensive insurance solution, which has been approved by the Insurance Regulatory Authority. It will assist the Government in unburdening NHIF from Covid-19 care management of frontline health workers.

For the first time, full comprehensive medical cover that caters for outpatient, inpatient, dental, optical, maternity, funeral, and personal accident expenses, including all the virus-related treatment will be available to frontline healthcare workers.

The uptake of this industry solution by the two levels of government – national and county, faith-based health organisations and private health facilities will protect, encourage, and motivate Kenya healthcare workers to continue serving and continue playing their invaluable part in battling the pandemic.

Sammy Muthui, Minet Kenya CEO and Mwenda Kimathi, Minet Kenya Business Intelligence and Analytics manager