Statement by ANC Study Group on Health on National Health Insurance Bill
14 August 2019
The African National Congress (ANC) Study Group on Health is pleased with the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NIH) Bill, to Parliaments Portfolio Committee (PC) on Health. The NHI will guarantee that all South Africans have access to free, comprehensive and quality healthcare in the country’s health facilities.
For more than a decade, the ANC-led government has been advocating for the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI), based on the principle of universal health coverage. The NHI is in line with the Freedom of Charter, which states that “Free Medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children”. Furthermore, the NHI is an implementation of the ANC-led government’s commitment to the people of South Africa, that is, to provide quality healthcare to everyone irrespective of their income by the year 2030, as stated in National Development Plan (NDP). It is with this in mind that the NHI aims to provide quality healthcare for all, by sharing the country’s health resources among our people. Like all legislation, the NHI Bill will be processed in parliament, to ensure that it is consistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Public hearings on the Bill will take place at a later stage, where we will reach out to our people and hear what they have to say about this important Bill.
The NHI will bring about significant change to our society, not seen since the dawn of democracy in 1994. Despite this monumental feat, there exist counter-revolutionary forces who are hell-bent on undermining the good work of the ANC-led government. One such force is the Democratic Alliance (DA), who have already made a mockery of the Bill, even before the NHI Bill is debated in parliament We as the ANC Study Group on Health are not surprised by the barrage of attacks against the Bill, in-fact, we have long anticipated that such an onslaught by these reactionaries, was imminent.
One amateurish tactic used by the DA has been disinformation and scare-mongering. For example, words like ‘nationalisation’ are used frequently by the DA to deliberately distort ANC and government policy on the NHI. Nowhere does the word “nationalisation’ appear in the Bill; rather the Bill makes it very clear that it will purchase services from both public and private providers. Private providers include hospitals, private specialists and General Practitioners as well as allied health professionals in private practice (Optometrists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapist, Dental Therapists and Oral Hygienists etc.). Furthermore, private health care providers will continue to operate, as NHI will not going to abolish or do away with private health providers.
Another tactic employed by the “official opposition” is political posturing, wherein the DA claims to be committed to universal health coverage – the core goal of NHI – but without NHI. While some in the media have cared little to look at DA’s Health for All plan, better known as the Sizani Universal Healthcare Plan, presented as an alternative to NHI, we as the ANC Study Group on Health took the liberty to scrutinise the DA’s proposals, genuinely hoping that there may be room for accommodation, but alas, we were disappointed.
In the media the DA claims it has found a solution, it says it is committed in universal health coverage. Regrettably, the Sizani Universal Healthcare Plan, is scant on everything universal healthcare. Instead, the document is pre-occupied with medical aide schemes and proposes that these schemes are the other way that universal health coverage can be achieved. There exists no evidence anywhere in the world that voluntary schemes can provide universal health care. We as the ANC Study Group on Health are of the view that DA’s proposals on Health, should remain exactly that, proposals, as their understanding of universal health coverage, leaves much to be desired.
We as the ANC are committed addressing inequalities that persist in South Africa’s health sector. Thus, we are committed to a fund that will improve our country’s health system. The DA claims that NHI will be funded like State-owned Enterprises (SOE’s). Nowhere does the ANC or the NHI Bill mention that funding will be like that of SOE’s, instead the NHI Fund will operate like a public entity (not an SOE) to be registered under schedule 3A of the Public Service Act. It will create a single pool of funds for universal health services, enabling the country to have capacity to strategically purchases services from public and private health providers.
It is time for the DA to stop grand-standing. We as the ANC reiterate our stance, that the changes envisaged in the NHI Bill, will result in universal healthcare that will improve the health of all South Africans.
Issued by ANC Study Group on Health, comrade Tshilidzi Munyai.