Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo: AP Photo/Jerome Delay.

* This story has been updated

PARLIAMENT - The DA on Tuesday questioned the constitutionality of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill and vowed to use all legal options to fight what it deems a bad draft law designed to turn the health system into "another state-owned enterprise".

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the bill published last week was part of a policy trend of nationalisation that included land and the South African Reserve Bank.

"This is the nationalisation of health care in South Africa," he told a media briefing at Parliament.

Maimane said the quality of public care provided at present to more than 80 percent of South Africans was of pressing concern and needed to be raised to the standard of private health care, but the bill would not fix the problem. 

Instead it would cripple the economy and the private health care sector and see the elite who pushed it into law fly out of the country for quality medical treatment when they needed it.

"I believe the discussion of NHI is long overdue and it is a necessary one. But we don't believe formulating another state-owned enterprise is the way to go. One South Africa is not in a fiscal position to do that and two, it will not address this injustice of some citizens being able to get health care and others not being able to do so," he told a media briefing at Parliament.

"Liberation movements generally tend to run out of ideas and ultimately seek to create expensive mechanisms that don't achieve the objective of providing those services to citizens."

He said he had written to Speaker Thandi Modise to ask whether the bill had been certified by the state law advisor as constitutional, as this needed to happen before the portfolio committee on health began mulling it.

Maimane said the bill would not pass constitutional muster because it undermined the role of provinces in providing health care. 

"It undermines the power of provinces and what provinces are able to do when it comes to the provision of health care. It is on that basis that I and the party, as far the DA is concerned, will be taking every measure possible to oppose this bill. We believe that this bill may very well be unconstitutional."

The bill seeks to establish an NHI fund which will become the sole purchaser of health care services in the country. It envisions funding sources to include surcharges on income tax, the shifting of funds from the provincial equitable share and the reallocation of medical aid schemes tax credits.

Under the bill, private medical aid schemes will be confined to funding complementary health services not refundable on the NHI.

DA health spokeswoman Siviwe Gwarube said the bill placed too much power over the fund in the hands of the minister of health and 12 board members appointed by him.

African News Agency (ANA)