With the National Health Insurance (NHI) in its final stages and soon heading to Parliament for submission, the Presidency has established a war room to address issues in the public health system.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made this announcement when he delivered his State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly on Thursday evening.
“Realising the magnitude of the challenges in health care, we have established an NHI and quality improvement war room in the Presidency consisting of various key departments to address the crisis in the public health system while preparing for the implementation of the NHI,” said the president.
The NHI is a health financing system that is designed to pool funds to provide access to quality affordable personal health services and to ensure universal health coverage for all South Africans based on their health needs, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
“The NHI will enable South Africans to receive free services at the point of care in public and private quality-accredited health facilities.
“By applying the principle of social solidarity and cross-subsidisation, we aim to reduce inequality in access to health care,” said the president.
The initiative is being implemented in phases over a 14-year period, which started in 2012.
“By introducing the NHI together with a multi-pronged quality improvement programme for public health facilities, we are working towards a massive change in the health care experience of South Africans,” said the president.
In October last year, the Presidential Health Summit was convened bringing together key stakeholders from a wide range of constituencies in the health sector.
Issues highlighted at the summit are likely to feed into the much awaited NHI Bill.
“At this Health Summit, the participants dissected the crisis in the health system and proposed immediate, short term and medium term solutions to improve the effectiveness of the health system,” said the president.
A key provision of the bill is the establishment of an NHI Fund to pay for health services so that all South Africans have access to quality care.
The fund will be established through the creation of a single fund that will buy services on behalf of the entire population through a combination of various mandatory prepayment sources, primarily based on general taxes.
However, the insurance has been met with criticism mainly from private health care systems’ stakeholders.
Currently, private healthcare is only available to ± eight million of the 59 million South Africans, meaning that private healthcare caters for 16% of the population.