Smart cards that top-up health
Friday, August 23, 2013
Zack Oloo and Sam Agutu have been friends since they met at school 43 years ago. They followed similar career paths, working their way up Kenya’s health insurance industry until each ran successful brokerage businesses in the sector. Then, a few years ago, they both quit.
With less than 10% of Kenyans covered by health insurance, whether by private companies or the mandatory national hospital care scheme for those in formal employment, most of the population potentially faces devastating out-of-pocket expenses if they fall seriously ill.
Oloo and Agutu decided there must be a better way. So in 2008 they launched Changamka Microhealth, a company that helps Kenya’s urban poor access and finance healthcare through use of mobile phones, mobile money and smart cards.
While all employers are required by law to enroll their employees into the National Hospital Insurance Fund, membership is voluntary for the 77% of the working population who are self-employed or work in the informal sector. The scheme covers limited hospital care solely, and as of last year, only 800,000 people from the informal sector were enrolled. Other private insurance schemes cost upwards of 50-80,000 KES ($600-900) to cover a family. The average per capita income in Kenya is only $1,800 a year.