R259 billion NHI figure was a guess – we don’t know what it will cost: Motsoaledi

Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi has stated that the incoming National Health Insurance (NHI) should have no price impact on the price of private care in the country.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Motsoaledi said that the current healthcare system is unfair and unequal for both South Africa’s richest and poorest residents.

“Firstly, in all likelihood it should not increase the cost of private healthcare, I am dead sure about that. The NHI, free education, pensions . . . will always be funded by the state, which comes from the four tiers of tax,” he said.

He added that it was unfair to place the poor quality of the public health sector solely at his feet, and that a massive reorganisation of the healthcare system is desperately needed.

“Let me tell you the problem with South Africans on this issue. We have an extraordinarily expensive private health service on the one hand. You believe the minister is a madman to talk about it,” he said.

“You don’t believe the fees are too high, but it is blackmail what private healthcare charges. It is unregulated and it is robbery.”

Despite his positivity and commitment to reforming the system, Motsoaledi said that there were still four major worries he had ahead of the NHI’s implementation – including concerns surrounding human resources; financial management; procurement and management of infrastructure; and maintenance of equipment.

He added that the budget for the NHI has yet to be confirmed, and that initial estimates of R259 billion were a thumb-suck by a local accounting firm.

“We made a mistake with the figures. I then went for advice to the World Bank and the World Health Organisation and they asked why am I trying to do this, it can’t be quantified by any human being because the costs are so variable.”

“You cannot balance books against service delivery on human life,” Motsoaledi said.

He noted that this didn’t mean that the money should be used ‘wrongly’, and that audits still needed to be ‘passed’.

“But saving money at the expense of human life … we can’t do that any more,” he said. “You saw what happened at Life Esidimeni.”


Read: Mass emigration of SA doctors a concern following NHI announcement

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