Ahmed Banderker is chief executive of Afrocentric Group, South Africa’s largest health administration and medical risk management solutions provider.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so,” said Mark Twain.

What the American writer, humourist, taught us was that beliefs that are deeply rooted and firmly entrenched are difficult to change without the ability to think critically, and also that when confronted by an opinion, backed-up by facts, which contradicts our own, we have a tendency to double down and retreat even more strongly into our entrenched beliefs.

The rationale of the upcoming National Health Insurance (NHI) is a no-brainer. Having medical coverage makes people healthier and enables them to get the care they need when they get sick or injured.

However, when the conversation on the NH bill remains vague and short on implementation, this produces anxiety, worries and sometimes hostile, combative and responses.

Statistics published by the Institute of Race Relations have painted a bleak picture. Out of South Africa’s population of over 57 million people, only 17.4% are covered by a South African medical scheme. This means that only 9.5 million South Africans have access to private medical care while more than 44 million don’t.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), of the numerous maladies, three stand out.

First, public health care is insufficient in most cases due to resource starvation and inefficient facilities and infrastructure, corruption and poor governance.

Secondly, our private health care has become predominantly a profit business.

Thirdly, courtesy of WHO research, is the “people aspect” of health care. The WHO says “how people live and take care of their health has been allowed to degenerate; the protective armour of disease prevention has weakened. Nutrition is poor. Rural and urban sanitation is dismal. Consumption of tobacco, alcohol and fast foods, and lack of exercise have become major risk factors causing a mega-epidemic of diseases such as diabetes, cardiac problems and cancers”.

I believe that, regardless of background, we all have a part to play in improving health services.

Without a shadow of doubt, this is a tall order and one that our society demands we get right.

The future of health care is and will depend on how we shape it.

* Banderker is chief executive of Afrocentric Group, South Africa’s largest health administration and medical risk management solutions provider.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media.