DA to fight NHI bill 'all the way to the Constitutional Court'
The DA will to go all the way to the Constitutional Court to stop the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) bill, tabled in parliament last week by health minister Zweli Mkhize.
This was announced at a press briefing in parliament by DA leader Mmusi Maimane and party MP in the health portfolio committee, Siviwe Gwarube.
Listen to the latest episode of Sunday Times Politics Weekly
Is government high-jacking private healthcare infrastructure?
Maimane and Gwarube are arguing that the bill was not consistent with schedule 4 of the constitution in that it usurped the powers of provinces in the administration of public health care.
Maimane said he had written to National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise, asking her to seek a legal opinion on the constitutionality of the NHI bill before it was processed for possible passage by the health portfolio committee.
The NHI bill in the main seeks to provide equal primary health care to all South Africans regardless of their employment and financial status, and its roll-out was expected to cost around R250bn a year.
Maimane said the proposed NHI, which if implemented would put government in charge of private and public health funds, was nothing but another attempt by the ANC to create a new state-owned company for the benefit of the governing elite.
Gwarube flagged "five key areas of concern" for her party, arguing against the proposed establishment of the National Health Insurance fund.
"The bill explicitly states that the fund will operate as a public entity which will be constituted by the pooling of funds both from the public and private sectors. The minister has sole discretionary powers over this fund. In addition, the board, which is appointed by the minister, will be tasked with overseeing this fund, leaving very little room for adequate checks and balances.
"In addition, the bill makes provision for investigative powers in cases of corruption and maladministration within the national NHI fund office, and not through any independent body.
"This fund will serve as just another state-owned company, vulnerable to grand corruption at the expense of the nation’s entire health system."
Gwarube also said they objected to the bill because it removed provinces from the administration of public health care.
She said this "fragmented the health system" by removing tertiary hospitals from the control of provinces and that it was yet another tax burden on taxpayers because it proposed doing away with medical aid tax benefits.
Maimane said they would be fighting the bill through every parliamentary process due to unfold in the coming months, with the battle probably ending up in the highest court of the land.
"If it doesn't pass constitutional muster, I'm willing to go to whatever court there is in the land to fight this matter ... don't undermine the powers of provinces, it's expressed in the constitution. We cannot be passing laws that will not pass constitutional muster.
"That's why I've written this letter to Thandi Modise so that we begin the internal remedy process. She will have to revert to us, about whether or not, in her opinion, this matter passes constitutional muster.
"All remedies are available here, we'll fight in the [health] committee, we'll fight it when the bill is presented in the national assembly. Let's not create another Eskom to destroy South Africa."