1 July 2009
The proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) system would address the economic imbalances in South Africa and ensure that all its people had access to decent health care, says Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
The NHI is based on the premise that South Africa’s public health system has suffered from under-funding which has resulted in deteriorated state facilities and an exodus of skilled personnel, while the country’s private health system has become less affordable, resulting in its not catering for the needs of all its members.
The planned NHI “is a system of universal healthcare coverage where every citizen is covered by healthcare insurance, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, young or old, sick or very healthy, black, white, yellow or people of whatever persuasion,” Motsoaledi said.
Excluded poor, vulnerable
Delivering his budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town this week, Motsoaledi said the department was concerned that the current health system excluded poor and vulnerable people.
The present system of healthcare financing “could no longer be allowed to go on, because it was simply unsustainable”.
In the 2007/08 budget, 8.5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was spent on health care, with 5% catering for seven million people in private health care and the remaining 3.5% catering for 41-million people in state health.
He said nowhere in the civilised world would one find a similar state of affairs. “The present model of healthcare financing is just outright primitive, and we are going to abandon it,” he said, adding that having people pay for healthcare out of their pocket was not ideal.
There has been much criticism of the NHI since it was announced, including argument that it would overburden the rich and that the economy would not cope.
Motsoaledi said he would be presenting an official document detailing how the NHI would work soon. A task team on NHI had been set up, consisting of experts from inside and outside government, to prepare the necessary background materials that would form the basis of a plan for the NHI.
The team is expected to find a funding and delivery model that seeks to eliminate out-of-pocket payments and co-payments, redistribute human and material resources in an inequitable system, improve the quality of health services, enhance access to essential services, and ultimately improve health outcomes for the majority of South Africans.
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