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Rutocare: Finally, media tells whole story of new healthcare system

When the media surprised Kenyans the week of August 28 with the news that the 57-year-old National Health Insurance Fund was about to be scrapped, nobody explained what would replace it.

The media, apparently as clueless as the public, simply reported that President William Ruto’s government was pushing for three new funds: The Primary Healthcare Fund, the Social Health Insurance Fund and the Emergency, and the Chronic and Critical Illness Fund.

Still, nobody explained what these funds were all about.

But, finally, after President Ruto on October 19 signed three bills entrenching these funds into law, media has started telling the whole story on the new healthcare system, now dubbed, Rutocare.

Sample the new stories:

  • Business Daily:How healthcare will change after President Ruto’s UHC rollout” (October 13, by John Mutua)

This story broke down how things would work. A common data pool with patient info for health facilities would emerge. All visitors to Kenya would now purchase health insurance cover. The new system would not leave out anyone behind, even Kenyans with chronic illnesses. Retired civil servants would be covered, too. And a new healthcare sheriff is now in town, called the Social Health Authority.

It was a good start.

  • Daily Nation: “Rutocare’: What the new health laws mean for you” (October 20, by Hellen Shikanda)

Background and context is everything. The story explained how this is Kenya’s third go at universal healthcare. By ignoring background and context, stories since August have read like the reporters were new in town and didn’t know how to research. They made it sound like this was some random policy initiative. It wasn’t, after all.

  • The Standard: Rutocare: Hard questions linger on new health plan” (October 22, by John Oyua)

This story started out with anecdotes from the field. It provided examples of how the suddenly much-talked-about heath promoters, a new a mainstay in the healthcare lexicon, have actually been working in Kisumu County – which together with Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos – have been piloting universal healthcare since 2018.

The most important sentence since August came in paragraph 29 of this story:

These funds will ensure publicly funded primary healthcare, emergency care and universal health insurance while promoting equitable access to quality health services.”

Why was this sentence the most important? It finally explained, without bubbling, what the new three healthcare funds are all about. This was the nut graph. It was two months late in the national chatter and 29 paragraphs late in this story, but, eh, better late than never, right?

This story explained things. Like the Nation’s story above, it reiterated background and context – that this whole thing was not new. It was government finally rolling out universal healthcare since initial attempts by the first Mwai Kibaki administration.

Finally, the story asked hard questions about feasibility.

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