The National Health Insurance (NHI) white
paper will finally be gazetted today (Friday, 30 June 2017) after being approved by Cabinet
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced
on Thursday at a press conference in Pretoria that plans were still under way to
use tax credits on medical aids, that add up to R20 billion per year, to fund
initial priority areas of the NHI.
Some people will be upset
These priority areas include dental care,
spectacles, hearing aids and speech therapists for school-going children who
suffer from physical barriers to learning. The Department of Health conducted
an audit of about 3.2 million children and found approximately 500 000,
disproportionately from poorer schools, suffered from one or more of these
“We need to massively reorganise the health
system… [And this] will upset some,” he said.
He said that tax rebates, given to medical
scheme members annually, serve to make the rich even richer and need to be used
to assist the poor. He said his office had had negotiations with National Treasury
on the earmarking of these rebates since former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan suggested
they be used for the NHI in his February budget speech.
“The ball is now in the Treasury’s court,”
Along with substantive changes to
legislation, he said that, under the NHI, teaching hospitals would become more
autonomous and report directly to the National Department instead of the
current provincial system.
No one will be turned away
Last week he told Health-e News these intuitions
are “national treasures” and should be given the power to spend on what they
need without having to deal with budget and bureaucratic restrictions.
According to the Health Ministry the NHI
is, by definition, a “health financing system that pools funds to provide
access to quality health care services to all South Africans, based on their
health needs and irrespective of their socio-economic status”.
He said it would function like a big
medical scheme, but that it would be different because everyone would have to
contribute and no-one could be turned away based on their financial status.
“People in medical aids are stratified. The
higher your position is, the higher your salary is, the better health package
you are given,” he said. “But that type of system cannot be allowed. Because
high blood pressure is high blood pressure [regardless].”
He lamented the fact that 80% of the
country’s specialists serve the private sector where only 16 percent of the
population have access to care. The state also shoulders the entire
tuberculosis treatment and care burden, despite it being South Africa’s number
one infectious disease killer.
“Some think we are driven by ideology, but
we are driven by simple facts like this,” he said. “It’s wrong and the whole
world knows it’s wrong.” – Health-e News.
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