Grameen, Partners Launch Health Insurance Initiative for Poor Kenyans

Grameen Foundation, MicroEnsure, and Penda Health have announced the launch of an initiative to provide health insurance and information to low-income Kenyans.

Part of the foundation's efforts to integrate affordable health care and financial services through the innovative use of information technology, the Uzima Project will offer low-income Kenyans access to high-quality health services and financing, along with a mobile phone messaging service that encourages healthy habits and practices. To that end, the three organizations will test a health financing solution that will be piloted in Penda Health medical centers in and around Nairobi, while Penda Health will create healthy lifestyle messages to be delivered via MOTECH, Grameen Foundation's open-source technology platform. Global law firm Clifford Chance will provide financial support and pro bono assistance to the project.

According to the foundation, nearly 75 percent of Kenyans are uninsured and must pay for health services themselves, with the poorest households spending up to a third of their budgets on medical needs. What’s more, health insurance for the low-income market typically covers only hospitalization costs. By offering an insurance product that provides access to quality careand promotes healthier behavior, the partners hope to ameliorate the factors that drive many Kenyan families deeper into poverty, while also lowering risk for the insurer. In addition, the use of mobile technology should lower administrative costs.

"[H]ealth insurance has the lowest penetration of any insurance product in Africa," said Peter Gross, regional director of MicroEnsure Africa. "Through the Uzima Project, we will invent new ways of addressing health risk and roll out the solutions at scale."

"Without affordable healthcare, millions of low-income Kenyans cannot access routine services and they also run the risk of minor health issues turning into catastrophes that send them deeper into poverty," said Alex Counts, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation. "Through this collaboration with MicroEnsure, Penda Health, and the global law firm Clifford Chance, we will develop a model for addressing this crisis and opportunity by enabling low-income households to take charge of their health care more than they have ever been able to do before."