South Africa - Johannesburg - 11 December 2018 - Discovery building, Sandton. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Substantially limiting the role of medical schemes while implementing a planned national health insurance would be counterproductive as there are insufficient resources to meet the needs of all South Africans, financial services group Discovery said on Friday.

The government tabled the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in parliament last week, saying it wanted to ensure affordable quality healthcare to all South Africans, but critics say it will collapse the sector.

On Friday, Discovery said the publication of the bill created an important opportunity for collaboration between the department of health and the private healthcare sector to ensure that the assets, skills and experience available in the private healthcare system were maximally leveraged to ensure the success of the NHI roll out.

"Discovery supports the drive towards ensuring that all South Africans have access to quality health services based on need rather than affordability," it said.

"Our view is that substantially limiting the role of medical schemes would be counterproductive to the NHI because there are simply insufficient resources to meet the needs of all South Africans – this is an unavoidable reality."

By preventing those who could afford it from using their medical scheme cover, the burden on the NHI would be increased and drain the very resources that must be used for people in most need, Discovery said.

"This would be detrimental to all South Africans and would undermine the objectives of the NHI as we understand it," it said, adding that it was seeking clarity on the issue.

The company said it did not envisage any material impact on the medical scheme administration business of subsidiary Discovery Health for the foreseeable future as the roll out of the NHI was expected to take place over an extended period and would be constrained by the current fiscal position.

"The Bill remains open to interpretation regarding its impact on medical schemes and we expect medical schemes to continue operating alongside the NHI," it added.

- African News Agency (ANA)