NHIF Bill forms top priority as House resumes tomorrow
The National Assembly resumes tomorrow for the third part of this Session after a brief hiatus, to a full in-tray, with sittings scheduled to run until December 2nd when the House is expected to break for Christmas. Top priority among others is the proposed legislation on the National Hospital Insurance Fund which is currently awaiting consideration in the Committee of the Whole House. President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier this year made a passionate appeal for Parliament to prioritize the Bill which is expected to provide the all-necessary shot in the arm to the government's efforts towards achieving universal healthcare.
But even as the House is expected to expedite the consideration of the National Hospital Insurance Fund Bill, 2021, paving the way for its further deliberations in the Senate, the proposed law has attracted a number of amendments. In the process of Bill Making, amendments to the proposed law are considered at the Committee of the Whole House Stage. Interest to amend the proposed law has been drawn from the Departmental Committee on Health, the Leader of the Majority Party and other legislators.
Key among these is the provisional clauses outlining manner in which health facilities are accredited or removed from the Fund's accreditation roll. Already, several MPs have raised issue with the provision for the Fund's beneficiaries to select only one facility from which they can benefit from the Fund. The lawmakers argue that it is hard to determine where one will get sick or whether the accredited facility they choose will have adequate facilities to cater for their illness.
Further the proposal by the Bill for employers; government and private alike,to match their employees' contribution to the fund does not sit very well with a section of employers led by the Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE). The umbrella organisation for Kenyan employers argues that if the Bill is passed as proposed, they may be forced to lay off workers to make ends meet amidst dwindling resources that have characterised their businesses since the Covid-19 outbreak. They also argue that a number of them provide medical insurance for their employees and thus they would end up paying medical insurance twice. The Departmental Committee on Health has however proposed a middle ground to this proposal.
The Bill has also elicited debate with regard to the contribution by youth and unemployed persons especially given the proposed revision of the age of dependency to 25. Those against a blanket contribution across board,have proposed that single contributors who are single beneficiaries among the youth pay an amount way lesser than the standard rate of Kshs.500 while those with families but within the youth bracket pay less than the normal rate but higher than their single beneficiary counterparts. The proposed law is however progressive and is expected to make access to medical insurance to the common mwananchi a lot easier.
The proposed amendments if approved by the House will also usher in a paradigm shift with regard to access to health insurance, with the fund being converted from a Hospital Insurance to a Health Insurance.
There has also been the question on the funding of health insurance for senior citizens and vulnerable persons with amendments to cause Parliament to appropriate monies for the Fund annually being floated. Currently, the Fund does not get any allocations from Parliament.
Besides the NHIF Bill, the House is also expected to consider the Report of the Committee on Delegated Legislation recommending the annulment of the Campaign Financing Regulations proposed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The Committee argues that the regulations did not comply with the set legal timelines and that there is no evidence of public participation in drafting the regulations. As such, it is expected that the IEBC will in lieu of the annulled regulations, resort to drafting amendments to the Elections Act which the House will have to prioritize in view of the short time remaining before next's general elections.
The Budget Making process for the Financial Year 2022/2023 is also expected to kick off in earnest during this session, given that next year is an election year. The National Treasury will thus be expected to submit the Budget Policy Statement for the next Financial Year this year paving way for the consideration of the Division of Revenue Bill 2022, the County Allocation of Revenue Bill 2022 and the Finance Bill 2022, all which are expected to be approved on or before 30th March, 2022.
Further, the House is also expected to expeditiously reconsider the Refugees Bill 2019,which was referred back to the National Assembly by the President with a memorandum before the House went on recess. Other top priority business include the Children Bill, 2021 which seeks to align the Children Act with the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The proposed law seeks to also align the municipal Children law with international and regional treaties and instruments dedicated to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
The main object of this proposed law is to provide for parental responsibility, fostering, adoption, custody, maintenance, guardianship, care and protection of children. It further suggests ways for the administration of children's institutions to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution and for connected purposes.
In what perhaps marks the government’s umpteenth attempt to improve the current control measures to curb the flow of illicit monies from crime and money laundering activities, the House is scheduled to consider the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Bill seeks to remove the position of Deputy Director at the Financial Reporting Centre a proposal which is consistent with the current practice of not providing for positions of Deputy Chief Executives of State Corporations in law. The proposed law also seeks to designate advocates, notarized and other independent legal professionals who are sole practitioners, partners or employees within professional firms as reporting persons for purposes of Proceeds of Crime and Anti- Money Laundering Act, 2009.
The House will also be expected to conclude debate and voting on the Coffee Bill, 2020 which is currently before the Departmental Committee on Agriculture and Livestock. The Committee which has been conducting public hearings across the country is expected to table its report to the House once the it resumes.
Other bills expected to be feature in the National Assembly’s business are the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 2020 and the Electronic Single Window System Bill, 2021. The latter which is sponsored by the Leader of the Majority Party, is meant provide framework to facilitate trade and commerce using the National Electronic Single Window System through an established framework.
Committee Bills pending before the House and expected to feature during this last part of this session include the Referendum Bill sponsored by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee and the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2021 sponsored by the Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning.
Additionally, during this Session, the President is expected to make his penultimate State of the National Address to the two Houses which he hasn't done this year.