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Cape Town - South Africans should stop wasting time opposing National Health Insurance (NHI), Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.

Speaking during his budget vote in the National Assembly, Motsoaledi said NHI had gone global, albeit by a different name -

Universal Health Coverage.

“The World Health Organisation, United Nations, the World Bank, (and) prestigious institutions of higher learning such as Harvard University have recently entered the fray in support of NHI in giving well-researched guidance to countries on how to go about implementing NHI, not to debate whether it is needed or not,” he said.

Opposition parties and analysts have criticised NHI as an impractical plan which will not address South Africa's healthcare woes.

“South Africans have been throwing mud at each other about NHI and I need to indicate we need to stop wasting our time,” said Motsoaledi.

He quoted from various medical journals in which experts had publicly supported NHI.

“It is very clear that the whole world, not just our country, is gearing itself to get rid of archaic healthcare financing systems that cater for the privileged few and punish the poor,” he said.

Qatar, in the Middle East, was putting into effect NHI from July. South Africa had given itself a 14-year timeframe to do the same.

“Unlike Qatar, there are two main prices that South Africa has to pay to successfully implement NHI...

“The quality of services in the public health sector has to drastically undergo a metamorphosis... There's no running away from that,” Motsoaledi said.

“The second price is the cost of private healthcare, that has to drastically reduce.”

Motsoaledi said the white paper on NHI would be published soon.

“It will released with a plan on how NHI will be implemented... It will include a host of non-negotiables in healthcare, the delegation of powers to CEOs who are being newly appointed and trained,” he said.

“This will also include the system of drug supply to allow CEOs to get medicines directly from suppliers.”

Motsoaledi said NHI would be based on a preventative healthcare system.

“Prevention of diseases and promotion of health is going to be the heartbeat of NHI in South Africa.”

The plan would take its cue from the National Planning Commission.

Motsoaledi welcomed a Competition Commission decision to launch a market inquiry into private healthcare costs.

“For those who do not understand where this (inquiry) comes from, I wish to refer to our National Development Plan vision 2030... National health insurance systems need to be implemented, complemented by a relative reduction in the cost of private healthcare and supported by better human capacity and systems in the public sector.” - Sapa