Johannesburg – The National Health Insurance (NHI), aimed at introducing affordable healthcare for all South Africans, will be implemented whether there is opposition to it or not.
These were the stern words of Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, and Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology.
Both ministers formed part of the ANC national executive committee subcommittee on health, education, and science and technology.
On Saturday in Pretoria, Motsoaledi told The Star that the government had a constitutional responsibility to provide affordable healthcare to all citizens, irrespective of their economic status.
He said the World Health Organisation recommended that countries spend 5% of its gross domestic product on healthcare, but that South Africa spends more than the recommended amount, and in a disproportionate manner.
“South Africa currently spends 8.5% of GDP on health."
“The private sector spends 4.4% of GDP on health but only provides care to 16% of the population."
“The public sector spends 4.1% of GDP on health but has to provide care to 84% of the population,” he said.
“So this current financing system is unjust and needs to be reorganised so we can pool public and private sector funds to provide quality and affordable healthcare to all South Africans,” he argued.
Asked whether the government was prepared for the ongoing NHI backlash from private healthcare providers, Motsoaledi pointed to the inquiry currently being conducted by the Competition Commission to ascertain whether there are unfair market practices in private healthcare.
He said “the war” started when the private sector tried and failed to block the inquiry from going ahead by going to court.
Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele of the Competition Commission told The Star last month that he expected the inquiry into the private healthcare sector to be completed by the end of the year.
“This is socio-economic transformation. You can also call it radical economic transformation, because the whole aim of NHI and checking the price of private healthcare is not only about health – it’s about economics; it’s about who gets what."
“So there is going to be a great deal of pushback and, yes, we are prepared for it,” he said.
“Remember the pushback that happened in the US when former president Barack Obama wanted to introduce the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obama Care).
“He wanted to make healthcare affordable in the US because 20 million citizens, who were mostly black, were outside the financing system because they are poor."
“There was a backlash. He (Obama) went to court three times and he won.”
The minister added that US President Donald Trump would regret his decision to repeal and replace Obama Care at the country’s next presidential election because “people around the world want equality; they want to share in the wealth of the country, especially when it comes to the provision of healthcare”.
Pandor, the chairperson of the subcommittee, echoed Motsoaledi’s sentiments that the ANC was prepared for a private sector pushback.
“We are resolute that we must create a National Health Insurance system in our country, and that we should have improved access to quality healthcare (by) ensuring that, as a nation, we contribute towards providing this quality healthcare,” she told The Star.
“So the private sector has the option in terms of the policy proposals of becoming a part of the NHI, which happens in other domains that they offer particular services – because it is a package of services that will be available.
“And in many systems all over the world, such as the National Health Service in the UK, the private sector offers partial services or portions of the package.”