The Kenyan Court of Appeal has given the green light to the contentious Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF), overturning a previous ban imposed by the High Court. Championed by President William Ruto, the SHIF aims to make healthcare more accessible but faces criticism for being perceived as a new tax.
President Ruto’s initiative, a key policy, intends to provide affordable healthcare to all Kenyans. However, public backlash has emerged, with many viewing the levy as an additional financial burden, exacerbating the existing cost-of-living crisis that triggered protests in the preceding year.
Last November, the High Court halted the SHIF’s rollout following a petition by businessman Joseph Enock Aura, challenging specific aspects of the scheme. This suspension, coupled with the pause on a controversial housing levy, led to President Ruto accusing unnamed judges of corruption and suggesting collusion with the opposition to impede government projects, sparking protests from the legal community.
Replacing the decades-old National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), which suffered significant losses due to corruption, the SHIF has faced resistance from critics who fear mismanagement and increased administrative expenses.
The recent decision by a three-judge bench lifted the ban, citing potential harm to the health rights of citizens. However, the court suspended mandatory registration sections of the scheme. While the SHIF requires a 2.75% contribution from workers’ salaries, concerns persist about affordability and the potential strain on already burdened citizens.
President Ruto assured that the government would cover contributions for those unable to afford them, but the details of such provisions remain unclear. Critics argue that the 2.75% deduction represents a substantial increase compared to NHIF payments, particularly amid recent spikes in fuel prices and living costs.
In addition to the SHIF controversy, President Ruto signed the Finance Act in June last year, introducing a 1.5% housing levy for both employers and employees. This legislation, aimed at providing affordable housing to low-income earners, has also faced legal challenges.