Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says the National Health Insurance (NHI) will be implemented at a pace that is affordable to the country.
Mboweni said this when Ministers in the economics cluster appeared before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to respond to oral questions on Wednesday.
“The National Health Insurance will be implemented at a pace that is affordable to South Africa.
“Given our current macro-economic outlook and our constrained fiscal environment, full implementation is likely to take longer than initially anticipated,” he said.
He said this not long after Parliament tabled the much-anticipated National Health Insurance Bill, which kicked-off public participation on the Bill that was signed off by Cabinet in July.
The Eastern Cape leg of public hearings on the Bill will kick-off tomorrow.
Financing paper on NHI
Responding to questions, Mboweni said the National Treasury is currently developing a financing paper on the NHI.
“The National Treasury has prepared a NHI financing paper, which lays out various scenarios for financing potential shortfalls for the NHI.
“However, there is still a lot that is being discussed between the Minister of Health and myself in order to make sure that we live up to the expectations.
“We are all committed to the NHI and the functioning of the National Health system. And therefore we should do all that we can to support the pace and the timeframes for the implementation of the NHI,” he said.
While Mboweni would not be drawn into responding to questions of how much the NHI is expected to cost, the National Treasury announced in its Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement last month that the health coverage roll-out will require an addition R33 billion annually from the 2025/26 financial year.
This would be in addition to the previous estimations contained in the Green and White Papers of 2011 and 2017 respectively, of R74 billion a year.
Mboweni said the draft paper has not yet been published as it still requires a lot of internal conversations within the National Treasury. Once finalised, the paper will be taken to a Cabinet committee, after which it will go to Cabinet.
While this takes place, there will be a simultaneous public participation process.
No need to wait for NHI to improve healthcare
Mboweni said, meanwhile, that there was no need to wait for the NHI to improve the health care system.
“Therefore the NHI idea is to fast-track the process through which the majority of the people can have good healthcare as well.
“This does not mean the confusion that is normally in people’s minds, that we have to wait for the implementation of the NHI before we can fix our hospitals; it is not true.
“We have to continue to do the best that we can with the means at our disposal to make sure that our people have good healthcare facilities and they are there so we can make sure there are doctors in the hospitals, there are nurses, that the cleaning staff is there to clean the wards on time, and that there is rubbish collection and that the gardens are well looked after, that there is medication in the pharmacy and that there is proper food for the patients, that the ambulance system works.
“We don’t have to wait for the NHI to do that.”