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Mon Dec 05 12:31:57 CAT 2016

NHI 'unconstitutional', says medical lawyer

KATHARINE CHILD | 2016-01-13 07:41:54.0
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If the National Health Insurance is introduced in its current draft form there would be room for a challenge to its constitutionality.

This is according to Neil Kirby, a medical lawyer at law firm Werksmans.

The NHI white paper was released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi last month.

The policy proposal suggests a single fund that would buy all health services for all South Africans. The fund's money would come from taxpayers.

Employed people would be forced to contribute and medical aid schemes would be prohibited from paying for most medical procedures.

The fund would buy health services from both the state and the private health sector.

But Kirby said forcing people to finance the fund went against the right to freedom of association enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

"The white paper will not pass constitutional muster," said Kirby.

"The removal of the ability of a medical scheme to provide and charge for benefits might also be an unlawful infringement of a medical scheme's right to property."

Property rights are also enshrined in the constitution.

The Free Market Foundation said recently that a single NHI fund would be an "unmitigated disaster".

The foundation questioned how the state would decide who got care first, and who would be treated in a state or a private hospital.

The white paper says an extra R71.9-billion will be needed in the health budget for the policy to be implemented.

It suggested an extra salary tax, extra VAT or a wealth tax as ways of increasing the government's health budget.

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