29 Nov 2019
South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that the National Health Insurance (NHI) will be rolled out at an affordable pace for the nation.
“The National Health Insurance will be implemented at a pace that is affordable to South Africa,” he said.
“Given out current macro-economic outlook and our constrained fiscal environment, full implementation is likely to take longer than initially anticipated.”
The announcement was made shortly after Parliament had proposed a National Health Insurance Bill, much awaited by the public and which prompted participation from the community, after being authorised by Cabinet in July.
Mboweni said the National Treasury is currently working on producing a financing paper on the NHI, in response to some of the questions.
“The National Treasury has prepared a NHI financing paper, which lays out various scenarios for financing potential shortfalls for the NHI.
“However, there is still a lot that is being discussed between the Minister of Health and myself in order to make sure that we live up to the expectations.
“We are all committed to the NHI and the functioning of the National Health system. And therefore we should do all that we can to support the pace and the timeframes for the implementation of the NHI,” he said.
Although Mboweni was not responsible to answer any of the questions demanding the cost of the NHI, the National Treasury said in its Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement last month that the implementation of the health coverage system would amount to an additional R33 billion on an annual basis, from the2025/26 financial year.
This would be added to the previous forecasts of R74 billion per year, disclosed in the Green and White Papers of 2011 and 2017, respectively.
Mboweni said details regarding the cost had not yet been finalised as they required further discussions with the National Treasury. Once concluded, the paper will be delivered to a Cabinet committee, after which it will be transferred to Cabinet.
Mboweni said that while this is implemented, the NHI was not needed to enhance the current healthcare system.
“Therefore the NHI idea is to fast-track the process through which the majority of the people can have good healthcare as well.
“This does not mean the confusion that is normally in people’s minds, that we have to wait for the implementation of the NHI before we can fix our hospitals; it is not true.
“We have to continue to do the best that we can with the means at our disposal to make sure that our people have good healthcare facilities and they are there so we can make sure there are doctors in the hospitals, there are nurses, that the cleaning staff is there to clean the wards on time, and that there is rubbish collection and that the gardens are well looked after, that there is medication in the pharmacy and that there is proper food for the patients, that the ambulance system works.
“We don’t have to wait for the NHI to do that.”