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An in-depth guide to health insurance in Kenya

Updated 20 Dec 2011

The state of  healthcare in Kenya has deteriorated dramatically over the course of the last few decades, and it’s recommended expats take out private international health insurance to cover and protect themselves while living and working in the nation; taking special care to make sure their plan includes emergency evacuation insurance. 

It’s true that in the main cities, such as Nairobi and Mombasa, there are very well established private hospitals and doctors, both of which can provide a reasonably high standard of care for many types of cases. However, for complex cases, many expats still prefer to be evacuated 2,000 miles away to South Africa. Public care will not be an option for expats, as it maintains a notoriously low standard; even most Kenyans use private medical facilities when they can afford it. 

Foreigners should note that private in-patient hospital treatment in Kenya can be costly, and expats who need or choose emergency evacuation will find the associated fees astronomic. 

While there is an assortment of local medical insurance companies in the nation, many of the local plans do not offer coverage outside of Kenya, do not offer guaranteed renewability and do not have high coverage limits. They also require you to inform them when travelling, and there is a lot of fine print which could mean they do not renew or load your premium at renewal should your claims go up. That said, in Kenya there are a number of local brokers who can easily organise international health coverage for you through recognisable and reputed global providers. 

International health insurance in Kenya

The insurance sector in Kenya is well regulated by the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), and there are specialist Medical Insurance Providers (MIP) that act as brokers, like JWS and Healthline Solutions, who can source various international health insurance coverage plans, available for both locals and expats.

International health insurance providers

  • Bupa International

  • AXA PPP International 

  • Aetna International

  • CIGNA 

  • Allianz 

Advantages of international health insurance providers

  • High coverage limits in sterling, US dollar or euro, with various coverage options

  • Premium and claim payment also in an international currency

  • International or worldwide cover (usually worldwide, excluding USA)

  • Evacuation/repatriation cover (including local air ambulance cover)

  • Access to the best medical facilities worldwide/hospitals and doctors networks

  • Cover for chronic conditions & pre-existing conditions at times

Once you are covered via an international medical provider, you can rest assured that your medical expenses will be covered locally, and also when you travel or return to your country of origin. 

Additionally, repatriation cover will ensure you have access to medical emergency treatment or treatment which is not locally available, even if means being taken back to your country of residence.

Cover for local air/road ambulance is also provided for in most plans. Dental cover is usually available as an option; however this would require one to take the highest level of cover and can be quite expensive.

Premiums vary according to an individual’s age, the size of one’s family and what level of cover they wish to take. 

Coverage levels range from in-patient only to full in- and out-patient cover, including dental and optical options. Corporate cover tends to be cheaper than individual cover; however, this requires a minimum of three employees to join the scheme.

Paying for international medical insurance in Kenya

More often than not, most expats lured abroad to live and work in Kenya are provided with international medical insurance by their company. If not though, they pay for cover personally. 

Either way, it’s important to broach the subject with your employer beforehand, and to do some preliminary research to have a basic knowledge of costs and plans.

Once you choose your plan, the Kenyan MIP acts as a broker, and upon registration they will provide you with a membership card which you can present at any local (and most international) hospitals to get emergency/in-patient treatment without paying any deposit. The card also has a list of all emergency telephone numbers.

Out-patient treatment is usually on a pay and claim basis, however some international providers have a local doctor network in Kenya, in which claims can be submitted by the doctor, and you do not need to pay up-front.  

The MIP is responsible for providing full-service, including addition/deletions, renewal advice, hospitalisation assistance, authorization of planned surgery, claim form submission and payment follow-ups. 

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