* This story has been updated
PARLIAMENT - The long-awaited National Health Insurance Bill, which aims to contain the cost of comprehensive public health care by prioritising primary and preventative services, was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
The bill is the first piece of legislation towards realising the government's plan for universal health care and aims to ensure that all those who qualify receive free health care of a professional standard within a reasonable time.
The proposed new law introduces a "gatekeeping" mechanism on referrals to specialist care and is accompanied by a memorandum setting out a timeline for a phased implementation process.
Under its provision, an NHI fund and its executive authority will in the near future begin to bid for money from the national budget and it also moots new taxation options as a source of revenue, including a surcharge on income tax or a "small payroll tax".