Zweli Mkhize. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Zweli Mkhize. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The long-awaiting National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill was introduced to parliament on Thursday.

The bill is important because it is the first piece of enabling legislation for the government’s ambitious plans for implementing universal health coverage, which it calls NHI.

“NHI seeks to optimise the available resources by pooling existing public funds and engaging the entire quantum of the health sector, so that in the end there is a single purchaser of services,” health minister Zweli Mkhize said at a briefing in Pretoria. 

A draft NHI Bill was released for public comment in June 2018, and then revised before being submitted to cabinet. The updated version was approved by the cabinet on July 10.

Read the bill here: 

The bill contains potentially contentious measures, as it is expected to signal the government’s view on the future role of medical schemes and that of provincial health departments. Observers will also be scrutinising the governance measures put in place to protect the NHI fund from corruption.

Mkhize said on Thursday that medical schemes “will have no trouble” adapting to the changing environment, “by developing products and services that provide complementary cover”.

Once the bill has been tabled in parliament, it will be considered by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, which are both expected to undertake a process of public consultation. 

kahnt@businesslive.co.za