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Hearings on NHI Bill Wrapped Up

February 28, 2022

Parliament

Virtual public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill have drawn to a close.

The portfolio committee on health got the hearings underway in May 2021.

The bill was tabled in parliament in 2019.

The bill aims to:

• achieve universal access to quality health care services in the Republic in accordance with section 27 of the Constitution;
• establish a National Health Insurance Fund and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures;
• provide a framework for the strategic purchasing of health care services by the Fund on behalf of users;
• create mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the Fund to meet the health needs of the population;
• preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the Fund and its users; and
• provide for matters connected herewith.

The bill flows from the NHI White Paper, published in June 2017.

It sets out government’s proposals to put a universal health coverage system in place.

The NHI aims to pool funds to provide access to quality and affordable health services for all South Africans based on their health needs and irrespective of their socio-economic status.

It is described as representing a substantial policy shift that will require a significant re-organisation of the current health care system, both private and public.

The vision is that health care should be regarded as a social investment and not subjected to market forces.

The NHI Fund will purchase health care services for all users who are registered with the Fund.

The White Paper focused on structural problems in the health sector, the burden of disease, the rationale and benefits of NHI, NHI coverage, organisation of the health care system and services under the NHI, financing of NHI, purchasing of health services and phased implementation.

In a statement, the committee pointed out that stakeholders that participated in the public hearings include “professional associations, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, researchers, lobby groups, academics, traditional healers, public health entities, statutory bodies, government departments, sector experts, healthcare funders, medical aid schemes, healthcare administrators, hospital groups, political organisations, labour unions and other interested stakeholders”.

According to the committee chairperson, Dr Kenneth Jacobs, the hearings revealed that people want access to universal and quality healthcare in accordance with the right to health.

The committee plans to get feedback from the health department on the submissions and recommendations flowing from the hearings and then commence with clause-by-clause deliberations on the bill.