Aaron Motsoaledi takes flak over National Health Insurance
Cosatu calls for axing of health minister, saying he is no longer in charge and private sector is dominating process
Trade union federation Cosatu accused Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Wednesday of attempting to water down the ANC’s policy position regarding National Health Insurance (NHI) and called for him to go.
"We have reached the conclusion that Motsoaledi is no longer in charge," Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said.
"We no longer trust him. In fact we no longer believe he is the right person to lead the health sector," Pamla said.
NHI is a set of health financing reforms that are aimed at providing all patients with healthcare services that are free at the point of delivery.
Motsoaledi released an updated white paper on NHI shortly before the ANC’s policy conference in July.
Two weeks ago he called for nominations to a set of committees charged with implementing the reforms.
He has drawn steady fire from Cosatu in recent months over the role of the private sector in NHI and the involvement of the Clinton Health Access Initiative in devising its implementation policy.
The initiative has worked with the health department for many years and played a pivotal role in helping it negotiate the world’s lowest HIV drug prices.
Cosatu has also taken issue with the health department’s plans to allow medical schemes to have a role in the transition to NHI. It wants a single fund that pays for all the services provided under NHI and is opposed to alternative financing mechanisms. Cosatu’s central executive committee criticised the minister’s plans for the NHI implementation committees on Wednesday, accusing him of leaving the door open for "corporate capture".
"The seven committees are dominated by the private sector. Cosatu views this as a classic case of one step forward and 10 steps backward, with the detractors of NHI given the mantle by the minister of health," it said. "It makes no sense to draw from institutions or persons that have opposed a single-payer NHI and have vested interests," it added.
Pamla said Cosatu had been concerned about the minister’s approach to NHI since November. "We were worried that some of the people who had been deployed as drivers of the NHI in that department were sidelined and people from the Clinton Foundation [sic] were now the ones at the centre of driving NHI," Pamla said. "You can’t go [to] Nedlac, engage on issues of policy and agree, and go to [the ANC] policy conference, and then later on the DG [director-general] decides to abandon the understanding reached in those platforms and starts undermining all of those processes," he said.
Department of Health spokesman Popo Maja declined to comment, saying the minister and the department preferred to engage with Cosatu directly.