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NHI dream is actually a sick and unaffordable nightmare, says DA

13 July 2019 - 09:37 By Sipokazi Fokazi
The NHI Bill, which was approved by cabinet this week, has been criticised in some circles.
The NHI Bill, which was approved by cabinet this week, has been criticised in some circles.
Image: Daily Dispatch/Alan Eason

The National Health Insurance Bill (NHI) is built on a foundation of failure and ignorance, the DA health spokesperson told parliament on Friday.

DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube
DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube
Image: Twitter/Siviwe Gwarube

Siviwe Gwarube argued that the costs of proposals in the bill, which was approved by the cabinet this week, were nothing more than a thumb-suck.

“And the NHI pilot projects across the country have failed in a spectacular fashion,” she said.

The legislation proposes a single state-run medical fund that will purchase health services on behalf of all patients from public and private sector service providers.

Gwarube said the bill would create a “perfect breeding ground for mass corruption and slow delivery of care”.

While the ANC would spend 25 years transforming the healthcare system, she said, the DA's alternative plan would roll out a universal healthcare system within eight years, financed through tax reforms.

“[Patients] need not wait for billions of rands that we do not have in order to have access to a good health system," Gwaruve charged.

"The road to universal health care does not have to be paved with fundamentally bad policy proposals, failed and expensive interventions.”

Health minister Zweli Mkize said other nations that had systems similar to NHI were not rich when they implemented it.

He said the government was ready to implement NHI and would fix the inefficient public healthcare system along the way.

“Most countries that had implemented NHI had done so when their economy was lowest. UK did so, Japan also did so," he added.

"We were there with them. They have explained that you can’t be more wealthy to implement NHI, just go ahead,” he said during his budget vote in parliament.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize
Health minister Zweli Mkhize
Image: Jackie Clausen

Health department director-general Precious Matsotso said it would not be clear how much the implementation of NHI would cost until the Treasury had completed a costing exercise.

To kickstart the programme, the heath budget of about R202bn is expected to be increased by R30bn.

Addressing journalists after his budget speech, Mkhize admitted that while there was still gross underfunding of public healthcare, the private sector was experiencing “over-servicing and unnecessary wastage”, and the two systems needed to be corrected.

He further posited that SA must be prepared to pay whatever it cost to provide the best service for its citizens, as universal healthcare was a social solidarity issue.

Mkhize added that the mentality of privileged South Africans, which leaned towards saving money, should change and the focus should be about saving lives.

“Investing in health and giving good quality healthcare to our people is ensuring that we can have a healthier population, we can have development of human capital and we are investing in economic growth,” he said.

Japan had reaped the benefits of universal healthcare, with a life expectancy of 85, up from 35 a century ago.

“Right now they have one of the world’s most aged populations … advancing the productivity of their population, increasing the working age to beyond 72,” said Mkhize