KATHARINE CHILD: Can government take away your right to buy healthcare?
Experts warn that the restriction on medical aid cover could be overthrown in court
A professor at the Wits School of Governance, Alex van den Heever, said both the NHI and Medical Schemes Amendment bills tried to restrict what medical aids could offer, reducing the access of middle class to health.
“If the government wants to take away a right to healthcare they need to do so with a rational purpose. Rationality is a constitutional principle. Restricting access to private healthcare has no rational reason,” he said.
Van den Heever added that this attempt to “prohibit medical schemes from covering benefits covered by the NHI Fund” was absurd.
“I do not see this provision ever seeing the light of day as no health system in the world takes away the right of people to select their own care with their own money,” he said, repeating that there was “no rational public purpose” served by the provision.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has promised that medical aids will continue to exist alongside National Health Insurance (NHI) – but the very bills he has proposed seem to say the opposite. In fact, according to experts, the bills – in their current forms – say that medical aids can only cover what NHI doesn’t. In effect, this means that if the NHI fund covered a caesarean section, medical aids wouldn’t be allowed to pay for the procedure, a move that would drastically change how the middle class access healthcare.It is a contradiction that, experts told Times Select, could very well see the Health Department facing lawsuits. Section 17 of the proposed Medical Schemes Amendment Bill – which was announced alongside the NHI bill – says that the “registrar may, after consultation with the minister, restrict the extent of benefits offered by medical schemes, having regards to the benefit and services coverage under the [NHI] Fund thereby eliminating duplicative costs for the same ben...