NHI will bring us in line with Brics – Phaahla
South Africa's NHI implementation aligned with Brics partners' universal health coverage mission. NHI bill lauded as a revolutionary leap.
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The implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) will bring South Africa into line with its Brics partners in implementing universal health coverage programmes, says Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla.
Speaking to health ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) at the 13th Brics health ministers meeting in Durban, Phaahla described the NHI Bill as “one of the most revolutionary bills ever passed by the National Assembly since the dawn of our democracy in 1994”.
He said universal health coverage was “undoubtedly” a critical part of achieving South Africa’s social and development goals.
Phaahla told the Brics ministers: “We have an opportunity to make our voices heard as Brics countries building on our negotiated and agreed goals towards a universal health agenda.”
Various organisations such as the South African Medical Association, medical aid organisations and opposition parties have rejected the bill in its current form and asked government to “fix it”.
Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said while “such declarations sound promising, their actual worth depends crucially on political will to make the promises happen (budgets, staff, etc.) as well as local infrastructure that can deliver on those promises,” she said.
“The political will and the system infrastructure in South Africa are less than optimal.”
But Phaahla said “over the last decade, Brics countries have committed to substantial healthsystem reforms that have been designed to improve equity in service use, quality and financial protection, with the ultimate goal of achieving universal health coverage.
“These health reforms represent an important attempt to translate the wealth of Brics countries into better health,” he added.
“It is undeniable that multilateralism will be the order of the day and the Brics partnership will add its weight to advocate for some of the more difficult decisions that need to be made to advance the global health agenda.
“Together we are a force to be reckoned with as we carry collectively, a great number of the world population of underprivileged societies.
“So we should leverage our involvement in the G20 to push the global health agenda and related areas for ensuring global health security,” said Phaahla.
He also warned the ministers not to let their guard down on Covid.
Thokozile Madonko, senior researcher at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at Wits University, had previously said that the current two-tier health system was not very efficient and that the NHI would benefit South Africa.
She said if it was implemented properly, the NHI would be one of the best reforms that SA would ever have.
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