THE NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE BILL (‘NHI’) is almost ready to be tabled in Parliament.

COVID has exposed the shortfalls and weaknesses in our healthcare (HC) systems and has given us invaluable insight into the importance of a healthy workforce and the benefit to social and corporate health as well as economic health. 75% of South Africans rely on the Public Health Care System. The impact on an already constrained health care system has far-reaching consequences, including the reliance on international pharmaceuticals as an example. The need for NHI is therefore vital in order to close the gaps and build on equal accessibility & affordable health care in our country.

While the general consensus is to focus on the downside of the NHI; we need to not only focus on the possible challenges but the end goal, which is some form of accessible health care to all, nationally (NHI) and globally (Universal Health Coverage [‘UHC’]). We all need to be part of the solution.

We understand the importance of finding workable and realistic solutions to some of the challenges highlighted by the Universal Health Insurance (‘UHI’) Bill. Given the complexity of this Bill; the phasing of which requires a clear understanding of its intention, which is to make quality health care accessible to all South Africans. The funding of a Bill such as this, undoubtedly requires thorough and careful planning. Although unclear at this stage, it cannot outplay the necessity thereof.

The debate continues

The current debate is around Complementary vs Supplementary Healthcare.

  • NHI will be compulsory for all, funded through tax resources
  • NHI will essentially provide primary care
  • Private Medical Schemes will provide Secondary and Specialist HC until such time NHI is ready and able to accommodate such.

The above requires the Private Health Care sector to adapt to the phasing in of the new HC system, making it easier for the roll-out of the NHI and the UHC, respectively.

What’s needed to ensure success

The NHI is a great opportunity to address the trust deficit between Government, businesses, and South Africans. A cautious and thoroughly assessed approach is required whereby government adopts,

  1. Excellence and transparency in their communication, which is key to a unified adoption of legislature.
  2. Efficient and sustainable Primary Care.
  3. Delivery of positive and qualitative outcomes.

The secondary phase of the NHI should only be phased in, consequent to the successful implementation of the aforementioned.

Fazlin Swanepoel, MD ASI (Employee Benefits) is quoted as follows, “I believe that some form of supplementary HC cover, whether a medical scheme or medical insurance remains a pre-requisite to ensure that we not only have a healthy workforce that keeps our economy thriving, but also aids in reducing the burden on the state. Critical to the success of UHC will be driving local public private partnerships to guarantee we all are pulling in the same direction and keep the requisite skills in our country required in order to make NHI a success. Working together has never been more important if we are to bring about equitable, affordable and quality HC to all SA’s.”

We commit to keeping you abreast of changes as they arise and look forward to NHI and its positive transformation as it unfolds.