Medical Experts Want NHIF to Cover Cancer Screening

Prominent medical professionals, represented by the Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (KENCO) and the Center for Public Health Development (CPHD), are urging the inclusion of cancer screening services in the coverage provided by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

According to these experts, this move will have a significant impact on reducing treatment costs by addressing the issue of late cancer detection, which currently accounts for approximately 70 percent of cancer cases due to the high expenses associated with diagnostic services.

While the NHIF currently supports the treatment of chronic diseases like cancer and kidney failure, it does not cover the costs of screening, placing a financial burden on Kenyan citizens who must pay for these essential services out of their own pockets.

Evan Mapelu, Director of KENCO, emphasized the importance of NHIF covering cancer diagnostics, stating, “If the NHIF covers the expenses of cancer diagnostics, it will positively influence the health-seeking behavior of Kenyans. They will be more inclined to seek proper diagnostic procedures, knowing that the costs will be taken care of.”

Statistics indicate that up to 90 percent of cancer patients in Kenya rely on NHIF coverage to afford their treatment, which includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For instance, NHIF covers up to 20 radiotherapy sessions per week at a cost of Sh3,600, as well as a maximum of six sessions of chemotherapy per session at a cost of Sh25,000.

Patients who exhaust these limits before the end of the year are then compelled to pay for treatment expenses out of pocket, despite diligently continuing their premium payments to the NHIF.

Mr. Mapelu emphasized that early cancer detection through comprehensive screening not only saves lives but also reduces the overall cost of treatment.

Disturbingly, it is estimated that Kenya loses one patient to cancer-related causes every 15 minutes, amounting to a staggering 37,000 deaths annually. Additionally, new cancer diagnoses in the country exceed 47,000 cases each year.

Dr. Josephine Muiru, Pfizer Oncology Medical Manager for East Africa, highlighted the gravity of the situation, stating, “Cancer is the third leading cause of death globally and in Kenya, and it is the second leading cause of non-communicable diseases after cardiovascular diseases. This highlights the magnitude of the issue.”

Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company renowned for its pioneering work in breakthrough treatments for breast cancer, genital-urinary cancer, and haematological malignancies, boasts a portfolio of 24 cancer medicines that have benefitted an estimated 889,000 individuals with over 30 types of cancer worldwide.

What do you think about this article?