Before the introduction of these cards, says Oloo, many women had no way to securely save for maternity care. “They would put their money under their pillow, but something would go wrong after a few months. For example a boyfriend would come and say there’s an emergency and give me that money.” To help women in this situation, the company launched a separate maternity card, to enable women to save for ante-natal, maternity and post-natal services at set prices. They also have a card for family health care.
Hellen Osteno, of Komarock, a low-income area on the edge of Nairobi, bought a family card in April. “I chose to get the card because many times I could not save,” she said. “It’s helped me because now I don’t have to go to the bank to deposit money or check my balance. I can check it through my handset, even in the night, if I have an emergency.” She saves “around 100 or 200 KES” ($1-2) daily when she can, she says.
With the new E-card system claims are submitted online, meaning they can be traced and processed more quickly. Changamka is also now able to start digitising the medical records of its clients, as diagnosis and treatment notes are also recorded.
In future doctors and other medical professionals could gain access to patients’ digital medical histories thanks to M-Kadi and other systems like it, although just as similar schemes have provoked debate in some western countries, some Kenyans have expressed fears about privacy and security.
To date, the company has sold 12,000 family health plans, 3,000 maternity plans. However sometimes saving is not enough. “We found catastrophes could not always depend on savings,” says Agutu, “so we designed an insurance product that would service the lower end of the market.”
Changamka, in collaboration with one of Kenya’s largest insurance companies British American Insurance and telecom provider Safaricom, launched a micro-insurance scheme called Lindi Jamii in November last year. Customers can simply dial *525# on a Safaricom line to sign up. A community health worker then visits to obtain a photo and take down other details such as a national ID number and family information.
Similar to their other services, customers save money via M-Pesa transfers. Once their account hits 12,000 KES, ($140), they are immediately enrolled in a family insurance scheme, covering two parents and unlimited children for 180 days. Besides covering typical medical expenses, the insurance also covers add on services such as income replacement during hospitalisation, funeral assistance, and dental coverage.
Changamka is doing its best to find new ways to extend coverage and facilitate payments for Kenya’s uninsured, however it is still a long way from profiting from these schemes. Their Linda Jamii micro-insurance only has around 8,000 subscribers so far, and is currently still reliant on funding from NGOs and donor agencies. The company has shown it can use novel technologies to help insure the poor, but to be truly successful, and profitable, it will have to find a way to reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of uninsured Kenyans.