Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health has successfully concluded the first phase of public participation on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.
This phase included extensive public hearings in all the nine provinces of the country, with a minimum three public hearings per province.
Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the chairperson of the committee, said that the majority of participants across the country pronounced their ‘unwavering support’ for the Bill, especially because of the expected benefits that will enhance universal healthcare especially for the poor.
However, he noted that in most cases the support for the Bill was predicated on the need for the Department of Health to fix the current healthcare challenges that will ensure, if optimally utilised, an effective healthcare system.
Fixing of these challenges include:
- Hiring of more doctors and nurses;
- Investing in infrastructure development; and
- Ensuring accountability at all levels of the healthcare sector.
Participants also raised the need for the release of the report of the pilot phase of the NHI and for the department to share as to what was the objective of the pilot phase and what were the lessons learnt there.
“With these public hearings we are confident that South Africans have been given ample opportunity to make their views heard and taken into consideration by the committee.”
Despite a majority of people endorsing the Bill and calling for its immediate implementation, there were those that vehemently opposed the Bill primarily because of the ambiguity in relation to the funding model, dwindling revenue base and apprehension on the governance of the fund as a result of corruption.
“The committee reiterates its commitment to listening to all views presented during the public hearings,” said Dhlomo
“Furthermore, it reemphasises that numbers are not supreme in this process, but consideration will be exclusively made on what is of benefit to the people of South Africa in achieving a universal healthcare coverage.”
The committee will now engage stakeholders and organisations that made written submissions to it, and that will form the last phase of public participation on the bill at National Assembly level.
The committee is still to decide on when the second phase will commence and on modalities of this phase. Once a decision is made it will be communicated extensively.
Next five years
In his weekly open letter to the nation, Ramaphosa said that the recent parliamentary hearings around the NHI Bill show that there is broad support for the changes as many people still have difficulty accessing healthcare when they need it.
“South Africa has two parallel health care systems. Around R250 billion is spent annually on less than 20% of the population. This is the section of our population that has access to private medical insurance. On the other hand, our country spends R220 billion on the rest of the population.
“This flies in the face of the Constitutional right of access to health care for all citizens regardless of their socio-economic circumstances. It is a situation that cannot continue. It is inefficient and unsustainable. It is unfair and unjust,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that government will not be ‘reckless’ in implementing the NHI and that the Department of Health should prepare adequately for the implementation of the system.
“We will implement it in an incremental fashion and aim to cover the whole country by 2025.
“We will use an affordable approach to progressively move towards a comprehensive NHI environment,” he said.