The National Assembly on Tuesday witnessed the passing of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill when 205 Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favour while 125 MPs voted against it.
This means that the Bill will now be submitted to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), paving the way for government to forge ahead with Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, said the NHI Bill lays a strong foundation for major reforms needed in the country.
The NHI aims to provide equitable access to quality health services for all South Africans based on their health needs, instead of their socio-economic status and geographic location.
“Private health and public health travelling on parallel tracks but both surely going toward crashing while if they can be pooled together there is a good chance of complementing each other,” the Minister said.
He told MPs that the state inherited a “fragmented” race-determined health system in which government had to build a national democratic and equal access health system.
“What we have not been so successful over is the avoidance of replacement of race-based differentiation of access and quality by a class-based differentiation. As inequality has been growing in our country even cutting across race,” he explained.
Only 16% of South Africans are covered by a medical aid scheme, while 84% depend on 49% of resources from the fiscus and services provided by the public health system only.
In the minister’s view, this has led to a situation where the public health system is under tremendous pressure while the private healthcare is over-servicing its clients leading to ever-rising costs to the members of medical schemes while the investors are enjoying huge dividends.
“The reality is that this situation is not sustainable,” he noted.