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Even in a country desensitised to bonkers ideas, the mutterings of health minister Zweli Mkhize about SA’s plans for National Health Insurance (NHI) were hard to stomach. For years, NHI has remained a noble pipe dream stymied by unachievable ambitions and a funding requirement quite out of reach for a bankrupted country.Consider the maths. This year, the government allocated R222.6bn to health care. Most of the budget was earmarked for salaries. And yet NHI, by the most conservative estimates, would cost more than that entire budget. It’s a staggering sum — especially when we don’t know yet whether NHI will work.Speaking last week, as he revealed the results of 11 NHI pilot studies, Mkhize seemed unchastened by the unconvincing findings. Though the pilots cost more than R4bn, a team evaluating the project said they couldn’t conclude it had improved the health of residents in any district where it was trialled.Yet Mkhize was adamant: NHI is going ahead — damn the obvious glitches. Th...

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