Recently, I came across a story about a woman, Mary Atieno, who for years walked through the Mathare slums helping women deliver.
Atieno, 38 and a trained birth attendant provided her services for free.
But her resolve was broken in 2006 when she had to turn away her patients due to lack of support from the hospitals. Even after complaints of cruel treatment and negligence in public hospitals, little was ever done in these hospitals to improve the condition for delivering mothers and other patients.
Even worse was when she witnessed a patient turned away from a public hospital because she did not have the Ksh3, 600 deposit required for admission. Rushed to a private clinic, the mother was turned away again for lack of money. Kneeling in the mud outside, Atieno assisted the birth, tying the placenta with twine fished from the gutter. But it was too late. Both mother and child died.
Later that year, Atieno’s 25-year-old daughter died on the doorstep of the public health facility where her husband worked. Administrators told Atieno they were not equipped to handle the complications and their ambulance was out of gas.
This is a scenario repeated across the country from the city to villages. Patients turned away from the hospital because they lack the funds to pay for services or already have pending bills at the hospitals.
The scenario however would be very different with health insurance and many lives saved in the process.
Why get health insurance
Health insurance helps cover those predictable and unpredictable moments in life.
It provides you with an affordable way for you and the ones you love to stay healthy and get medical care when ill. It also protects you and your family from the high cost of health care. In some cases, medical bills can be financially devastating.
Many people don’t even think about health insurance until they need it. By doing some research and making good choices ahead of time, you can save both time and money down the road.
The first step to making a smart health insurance decision is to understand the value of health insurance and why you need it. It may sound obvious, but many people don’t properly understand the basic purpose of health insurance or how it works. In brief, health insurance helps protect you in the following ways:
Health insurance protects your finances
It entitles you to discounted rates as insurance companies will negotiate rates with health care providers. Without coverage, the fee charged for a regular office visit can be twice as high.
Health insurance also shields you from unexpected medical costs. Even if your health plan requires you to pay certain costs out of pocket, being covered can help save you from bankruptcy in case of injury or hospitalization.
In their report for 2001/2002, The National Health Accounts (NHA) showed that Kenyan households finance over half of all health expenditures, clearly justifying a conclusion that ill-health contributes to, and perpetuates, poverty because health costs deplete people’s meagre resources.
Many people in Kenya seeking care public and private health centers involves a lot of sacrifice. Many are times when a family has to dispose of their household items to get the money needed to pay for transport and cost of treatment.
Health insurance protects your health
It improves your access to quality care. As a member of a health insurance plan, you have access to a broad network of health care providers.
The sad fact is that many people who do not have health insurance simply don’t get the medical care they need. That’s because they may be worried about the cost. It may also be because they don’t have access to the best resources.
One of the key benefits of health insurance is access to a large network of doctors and hospitals, as well as other handy resources to help you stay healthy.
Many times in Kenya, patient do not even get treatment in the emergency room because they lack the money.
In addition, Health insurance encourages people to lead a healthier lifestyle. With insurance, you are more likely to go for checkups and take advantage of preventive care without costing you an arm and a leg.
The bottom line is health is the most valuable asset of all. With a good health insurance plan, you help protect the health and financial future of you and your family for a lifetime.