Ramaphosa finds his pen: President to sign NHI Bill into law

BREAKING: The Presidency has announced when President Cyril Ramaphosa will be signing the NHI Bill into law.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to sign the contentious National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law on Wednesday, 15 May.

The Presidency issued a statement on Monday evening announcing the news in its latest update on progress regarding the signing of the bill.

During his State of the Nation (Sona) address in February, Ramaphosa joked that he was “looking for a pen” to sign it.

“The bill has arrived on my desk. I am going through the bill. I am looking for a pen,” the president said.

Public signing ceremony 

With scarcely three weeks left before the 29 May election and the popularity of the African National Congress (ANC) waning, the president has found his pen.

According to the statement, Ramaphosa will publicly sign the NHI Bill at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

NHI Bill and universal health coverage

Signing the bill into law will set into motion the government’s plans for universal health coverage by creating a unified health system that provides patients with care that is free at the point of delivery – whether at a public or private facility.

ALSO READ: What happens if Ramaphosa finds a pen and signs the NHI Bill into law?

Gradual roll-out of NHI

During his Sona address, the president revealed that government plans to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies, as well as health information systems.

What will happen to medical aids?

The Health Department has explained that 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,” it said.

Chances for improved healthcare

The latest move of signing the bill into law sets the stage for a protracted fight with business, healthcare professionals and opposition parties .

A wide range of organisations have however called on Ramaphosa to not sign the NHI Bill into law based on the state of public health in South Africa.

As a major stakeholder in South African health resource distribution, the Health Funders Association (HFA) is a professional body representing medical schemes and almost half the national medical aid membership.

Craig Comrie, chairperson of the HFA, told The Citizen recently that if the NHI Bill is enacted by the president with Section 33, which precludes private health funding involvement, it would have devastating consequences.

“Such a move would erode the current world-class private healthcare system and further threaten the country’s already stretched healthcare provider base.

“Currently, state clinics and hospitals are overwhelmed, struggling to deliver the most basic care, often inadvertently risking lives. If private healthcare can no longer alleviate at least some pressure on the public system, the NHI’s promised reforms will not be realised,” he added.

NOW READ: ‘Hospitals of horror’ report proof ‘NHI is doomed to fail’ – FF+

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