South Africa: Health Unit Hammers Out Details of NHI

by Aug 16, 2009All Articles

by Carien Du Plessis
Cape Argus
3 August 2009

The ANC’s proposed national health insurance (NHI) scheme will become a reality this week as a Health Department unit starts working on the details of the scheme.

This comes as SACP general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Sunday warned there would be a “war” on “capitalists” who opposed the scheme and accused private hospitals of profiting from people’s illnesses.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Sunday that the first members of a unit of specialists to work on the plan were due to be appointed by the health department this week.

Preliminary work has already been done.

Motsoaledi said the NHI unit would comprise government officials working in the area of health economics and would include experts and advisors from academic and research institutions.

He said he expected the government team members to start work this week, while external experts still had to be appointed.

Approved by the ruling party’s national executive committee in July, the proposals for the health insurance scheme would first be discussed by the cabinet before being released for public discussion, Motsoaledi said.

Motsoaledi said reports that the draft proposal would be released in August were “just speculation”.

“We don’t have a specific time (for releasing the document). It would have to depend on where we are (with the process),” he said.

However, he said it was possible it could be released “possibly by the end of August. We’ll try to work around the clock.”

Responding to Nzimande’s declaration of war on NHI critics, Motsoaledi said Nzimande had the right to criticise them in his capacity as a communist party leader, because he was contributing to the debate.

The ANC wants the scheme up and running within five years, but has been criticised by health economists for keeping the details secret.

Meanwhile, the ruling party has resolved to embark on a public education campaign about the scheme, together with its alliance partners.

A civil society summit on the scheme is also on the cards.
Critics have questioned the financial feasibility of the scheme and the absence of any details of what it would cost in information so far made public.

They have also argued that problems such as poor management in the public health service would need to first be dealt with before such a scheme had a chance of operating efficiently.

Of concern to the ANC is the spiralling cost of health care.

Its proposal would see richer South Africans subsidising care for poorer compatriots through a compulsory levy on top of whatever medical aid contributions they were paying.

Nzimande, speaking at an SACP anniversary rally in Virginia, Free State, on Sunday, said he wanted to “send a strong message to capitalists”, especially those in the health sector who opposed the NHI.

“The capitalist classes have already started a huge campaign in the media to try and discredit this system and we want to say to them as communists today, war unto you.

“Prepare for a huge battle because we are going to mobilise the workers and the poor of the country to fight against you so that we can have a national health insurance scheme,” he said.

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