Avatar photo

By SANews

NHI Bill is almost ready to go to parliament

The minister told the delegates that universal health coverage was not a new aspiration.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the portfolio committee on health in the National Assembly has made significant progress in processing the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill after their work was paused due to the Covid crisis.

“We have virtually completed the main work of the Bill. In the coming year, they will be able to finalise it and table it to a full sitting in the National Assembly.

“We are in a critical time when the legislative framework for our approach to universal health coverage is almost completed.”

Phaahla was speaking yesterday at a high-level universal health coverage seminar with the theme, Build the World We Want: A Healthy Future for All, in Kempton Park, Gauteng.

Not a new aspiration

The minister told the delegates that universal health coverage was not a new aspiration.

“Our Bill of Rights states that the state must take progressive steps for the realisation of the right to health within the limit of its resources.”

On 12 December 2019, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a resolution urging member states to accelerate progress toward universal health coverage.

ALSO READ: NHI: Giving minister too much power among Bill’s flaws

As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, all countries committed to trying to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines.

“Unfortunately, as is now common knowledge, hardly five months after this declaration Covid, descended and disrupted all our health services worldwide and in our own country,” he said. “The same pandemic exposed the weaknesses of our health systems.”

He acknowledged that there were areas in the public health system that needed intervention.

“Financing is key, but it’s not the only solution. However, the legislation in parliament, which provides a framework for unified funding and a single-payer and single-purchaser system is very fundamental,” he stressed.

“We also need to do away with the elephant in the room, which is our highly fragmented health system, the two-tier health system.”

He said the current system exacerbated inequality and increased efficiencies.

“It is common knowledge that the top three private companies are much more profitable than mining companies, food producers and manufacturing companies.”

While government was working around the clock so all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship, Phaahla said many challenges lie ahead.

ALSO READ: ANC on foreigner blame trail wants to ram through NHI Bill

“There are already challenges, just in the implementation of our structure of preparing for the NHI in the department. We are already in court with some of the right-wing organisations,” he said. “Once the Bill is passed in parliament, there will be a slew of litigation.”

Healthy population necessary

In addition, Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said increasing health costs were pushing millions of people into poverty.

“Achieving universal health coverage will bring about dignity and social justice. A healthy population is necessary to building a thriving economy and a competitive nation,” Dhlomo said.

Dhlomo said SA was one of few countries without a universal, tax-funded health system. “We must continue to lay the foundations for truly universally accessible healthcare as we build the country we all want.”

– SAnews.gov.za

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits