Parties campaigning for the May 8 elections are far more focused on personalities than issues, leaving the healthcare promises made by their rivals in their election manifestos virtually unchallenged. There is thus no hard questioning of the government’s progress in realising its ambitions of implementing universal health coverage, which it calls National Health Insurance (NHI), or public debate on the merits or otherwise of the DA’s proposed alternative.    The complexity of the issues partly explains why politicians on the campaign trail shy away from healthcare. But for the ANC, part of its reticence may simply be down to fear of losing voters. It has gone quiet on the NHI, caught between a rock and a hard place: if it pushes too hard and signals the demise of medical schemes before establishing trust in the public sector, it risks scaring off voters who value their access to private healthcare providers. If it goes too slowly, it risks alienating SA’s biggest trade union federa...

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