‘I am looking for a pen’- What Ramaphosa said about the NHI at Sona

Ramaphosa has outlined the plan for NHI during his State of the Nation (Sona) address, saying he wishes to sign the bill soon.


President Cyril Ramaphosa has spoken on the highly contentious National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, jokingly saying he is “looking for a pen” to sign it.

The bill aims to provide free universal health care to all South Africans. It has been praised by some and criticised by others who claim it will collapse the private medical care industry and decline health services in the country. The bill was passed by the National Council of Provinces late last year and is sitting on the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“The bill has arrived on my desk. I am going through the bill. I am looking for a pen,” he told the country on Thursday during his State of the Nation Address.

Ramaphosa has been urged by some, including business groups BUSA and B4SA to consider “the long-term impact and risks of assenting to a bill that so clearly flouts the Constitution”. However, the National, Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) has called on Ramaphosa to sign it without delay.

Ramaphosa: The plan for NHI

Ramaphosa did not give ground to either call in his address, only repeating that it would be phased in slowly.

“The National Health Insurance will provide free health care at the point of care for all South Africans, whether in public or private health facilities.

“We plan to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies, and health information systems”.

What will happen to medical aids?

The health department has previously said private medical schemes will continue to exist under the NHI system but “their role will change”.

“When the NHI is fully implemented they will provide cover for services not reimbursable by the NHI Fund.

“Medical schemes are voluntary organisations and they will remain as such.”

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