Parliament has passed NHI Bill

Health Minister Joe Phaahla. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Health Minister Joe Phaahla. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jun 13, 2023


Health Minister Joe Phaahla says the adoption of the National Health Insurance Bill was to stop two trains travelling on parallel tracks heading for a crash.

But the situation can be rescued if they can be pulled together so that they complement each other.

This was how Phaahla described the role that would be played by the NHI in the country to end the two tier system in the healthcare system.

He said the current situation was not sustainable.

But opposition parties said they did not support the Bill as the healthcare system in the country was already facing challenges.

The Freedom Front Plus threatened the government with action if the Bill was signed into law after going through the National Council of Provinces and other processes.

But the ANC on Tuesday muscled through the National Health Insurance Bill in the National Assembly with a majority of 205 members against 125 votes from the opposition parties.

Phaahla said they need to adopt universal health coverage in the country.

He said the NHI Bill has been in the making for 12 years.

“Honourable members in simple terms what the NHI seeks to do is stop the two trains, that is, private health and public health travelling on parallel tracks but both surely going toward crashing while if they can be pooled together there is a good chance of complementing each other.

“The NHI seeks to pool resources of those who can only contribute to the fiscus through indirect means such as VAT and other collections and those of us who are able and are already making fragmented contributions into 81 different schemes into one pool which can purchase services from both the public health system and private providers from lowest level of care up to the highest,” said Phaahla.

The DA said it would be difficult to implement the NHI because in the UK the NHS system was already buckling under pressure with a backlog of 7.6 million people on the waiting list for hospital services.

The EFF said they did not support the NHI because the government did not have its house in order.

The IFP said hospitals and clinics were already stretched to the limit and there were no doctors and nurses in public health facilities.

But Phaahla defended the implementation of the NHI saying it would provide equal access to healthcare services for all South Africans.

“What we have not been so successful with is the avoidance of replacement of race-based differentiation of access and quality by a class-based differentiation. As inequality has been growing in our country even cutting across race, access to quality health services has been a casualty with those who have private medical insurance consuming 51% of the national spending while constituting only 16% of the population, while 84% depend on 49% resources from the fiscus and services provided by the Public Health System only.

“This has led to a situation where the Public Health System is under tremendous pressure while private healthcare is over-servicing its clients leading to ever rising costs to the members of medical schemes while the investors are enjoying huge dividends including from the JSE,” said Phaahla.

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