It is unsurprising that the latest National Health Insurance Bill is being rushed through the legislative process without adequate thought. The rush has little to do with meeting the healthcare needs of South Africans. Rather, the aim is to help the ANC win votes in the 2019 election through the false promise of free, quality healthcare for all.
The public submissions on the bill have generally been ignored. Even important points made by the Treasury were thrown into the rubbish bin, it seems.
The people in the government now arguing about the NHI Bill are united in supporting a particularly dangerous idea: that medical aid schemes should be confined to covering health services "complementary" to those offered by the NHI.
Since the NHI is intended to include a vast range of health services, there will be few "complementary" services that medical schemes can cover. Most medical schemes will thus cease to exist when this restriction takes effect.
But medical schemes are the main source of funding for SA’s excellent private healthcare system. Private healthcare will thus also largely come to an end under NHI. This will deprive South Africans of choice and force most to use the dysfunctional public healthcare system.
The government should aim at expanding access to private care. This can be done in various ways, including tax-funded health vouchers, permitting low-cost medical schemes, and making greater use of public-private partnerships.
In seeking to provide all South Africans with decent healthcare, the government should treat the private sector as an ally rather than an adversary.
Head of campaigns, Institute of Race Relations