The national health insurance (NHI) fund appears to have been placed temporarily on the backburner while the government tackles more immediate problems. This year’s proposed health budget is 6.6% higher, at R222.6bn. But take inflation into account, throw in 1.6% population growth and economists say that, in real terms, there’s actually less money to go around. The National Treasury estimates that R140bn, or 60%, of the total will go on salaries. In among all these numbers, there’s very little mention of the government’s proposed NHI. Instead, money that was planned for it will be used in the short term to fill critical vacancies on "the front line of the health system". The Treasury says the money has been "re-prioritised". A chunk will go towards unfreezing posts, and hiring staff, including community service doctors and medical interns. The decision appears out of tune with recent calls by health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to intensify the rollout of NHI. And in his state of the n...

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