President Cyril Ramaphosa has indicated that he will soon sign the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law.
Speaking at the 2024 State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa joked that he was “looking for a pen” to sign the NHI into law after it was recently passed through parliament.
The NHI aims to introduce universal healthcare, with the state acting as the single buyer of medical products for the population, eliminating all private healthcare outside of voluntary treatments.
“We plan to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies, and health information systems,” said Ramaphosa.
The Bill has been vehemently opposed by those in the healthcare sector, doctors, business leaders and even parliament’s own legal team.
There have been question marks over how the scheme will be funded, with fears that cash-strapped South Africans will have to pay more tax.
Rather ironically, despite the calls for greater funds to implement the NHI, the government has been unable to place just under 700 doctors amid financial struggles.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that provincial and local departments did not have the funds to hire the hundreds of medical graduates who were awaiting placement.
“The irony of the situation is clearly seen in the government’s inability to even address the immediate needs of recent medical graduates, (all) while they are trying to implement a large-scale health insurance system,” Solidarity’s Medical Sector lead, Peirru Marx, said.
“There are currently 33.3 doctors per 100,000 of the population available in the public sector. This means the doctor-to-patient ratio is 0.3 doctors per 1,000 people of the population.”
Not much to worry about
Despite the fears of the NHI, experts have said that those covered by the private sector should not worry about the Bill.
Efficient Wealth said that Rampahosa and the ANC will use the NHI and other policies as electioneering tools.
However, even if it is signed into law, the current version will face an onslaught of legal fights, with the Bill not seeing the light of day for many years.
Tax experts from Sage also said that the implementation of the NHI could be delayed due to question marks over its funding.
The group said that the government would fear introducing new payroll taxes and the potential cancellation of medical aid membership, with the latter adding further strain to an already troubled public healthcare system.