Confusion over NHIF registration of children

NHIF director general Bernard Konga. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • NHIF says the change is just for new registrations; existing cardholders and those who have already subscribed will continue to use the service

Dar es Salaam. Parents and a human rights watchdog have voiced concern over suspending health insurance coverage that was specifically designed for individual children.

Through the package known as Toto Afya Kadi, literally meaning health insurance card for a child, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) allowed children below the age of 18 to be enrolled individually.

However, the fund announced this week that the new registration of the individual children was immediately suspended, asking them to be covered through their parents’ package or through other arrangements in schools and colleges.

NHIF said the change was for new registration, while existing cardholders and those who have already subscribed will continue with the service.

Children below five years will also be excluded from the insurance as the government’s policy allows them to get health services free of charge.

Some parents say the change in registration policy would affect more children and possibly exclude them from health insurance services.

“The government should consider reversing such a decision because it will affect many children,” said Temeke resident Ally Jafari.

“Even the so-called free health services for children are just a political statement,” he said, adding that the free health policy has not properly worked for the elderly. “Complicating the health coverage for children is likely to increase early deaths for children,” added Mr Jafari.

Another parent, Mr Kulwa Karedia, said the NHIF decision was too abrupt to be implemented smoothly.

“I think the government should have allowed the current system to continue while it’s reviewing the process for new registration. It could allow all systems to work for about three to four months before completely shifting to the new procedure,” he said.

The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) said in a statement that the suspension of the current registration system would affect innocent children who need better health services.

“The NHIF’s children’s coverage has been very helpful for children, especially those who have no parents. They have been getting the medical coverage through the support of well-wishers,” said LHRC in a statement signed by its executive director, Anna Henga.

“There is a very small share of parents who are in the formal employment system who are enrolled in the insurance. On the other hand, a few of them can have access to the NHIF family packages, which can also accommodate both parents and children,” LHRC stated.

NHIF has packages that range from Sh192,000 to Sh816,000, depending on the family’s size and age. These are open to all people, regardless of their job status.

NHIF director general Bernard Konga said yesterday that the public should not panic but follow the instructions on accessing the child cover through a different route.

He said the children’s coverage aimed to reach all children but has not been successful enough, forcing the fund to look for alternative arrangements. According to him, the cover managed to only serve 210,664 children since 2016, while Tanzania was estimated to have 31 million children by 2022.

“You can see the number of covered children is small, and it’s unclear when we can reach the remaining 30 million children,” he said.

“We need to find an alternative way, and after some research, we have introduced the new registration system,” he said.