Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi moved on Tuesday to defend his position on National Health Insurance (NHI) after Cosatu accused him of betraying voters by offering medical schemes a lifeline.

The NHI white paper released in 2015 says a single NHI fund should be established to pay for services and relegates medical schemes to providing "complementary" services.

Health director-general Precious Matsoso and Motsoaledi have recently signalled a potentially softer approach, in which medical schemes would continue to exist.

At the weekend, Motsoaledi said medical schemes would need to consolidate and reduce the number of options they offered, but they would play a role in the transition to NHI.

Cosatu on Tuesday accused the Department of Health of prioritising the needs of what it called "private health profiteers" over those of poor people.

"The Department of Health is betraying NHI by handing over the NHI to private hands, and is also betraying the voters who were promised a single-payer NHI in the 2014 [ANC] election manifesto," it said

Motsoaledi used his budget vote speech in Parliament on Tuesday to try to assure organised labour that his position was aligned to theirs. "I hear time and time again that I am in the business of watering down NHI and diluting it through a multipayer system ... and handing it over to private hands.

"There is nothing in our policy documents that says any of these things. I will never sell [out] NHI," he said.

Motsoaledi attacked medical schemes, saying they were designed for a privileged minority at the expense of society.

"According to this system, 84% of South Africans have no right to access to good-quality health services and they can be served through alternative means," he said, noting that only 16% of South Africans belonged to medical schemes.

DA spokesman on health Wilmot James said Motsoaledi was overly focused on money and neglecting the management issues that plagued the public health system.

"He wants to compel those on medical aid or health insurance to pay their monthly subscriptions to his NHI in return for services over which they have no control.

"He would like to have access to the medical aid reserves that run into billions, eliminate the medical aid tax credits and block the universal subsidy to middle-to high-income earners," said James, arguing that the minister had failed to ensure that hospitals offered quality services or that health facilities were staffed adequately.

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