With the South African economy having shrunk in the past quarter by 2.2% and given the decline in the tax-paying base, the implications of introducing the National Health Insurance (NHI) would have “disastrous consequences”, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) has warned.
Reacting to the gazetting by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi of the NHI, FMF director Temba Nolutshungu yesterday launched a scathing attack on the bold plan by Motsoaledi.
“We can assume that the money to pay for the NHI will come from the taxpayers and other taxpaying entities,” said Nolutshungu. “The implications are that the small tax base will bear the brunt of subsidising the NHI.
“I cannot understand how the minister of health, with such a disastrous and tragic history in the public healthcare sector, can come up and conceptualise such a disastrous healthcare policy and be obstinate in getting it implemented.
“This is the same minister of health on whose watch we have seen the Esidimeni tragedy.
“We have also recently been touched by a case which should have outraged all South Africans, of a man who had gone to collect the remains of a relative who had died under tragic circumstances in a mental asylum.
“He is reported to have been given a bag that had a few traces of the corpse that was intermingled with rat droppings.
“It is beyond belief that this same minister on whose watch this and other tragedies are happening in the public healthcare sector is still holding his position and has the audacity to go ahead with a potentially disastrous NHI.”
The ideal proposal that should be considered, said Nolutshungu, was that private healthcare providers in the private sector “should be left alone and government should purchase healthcare for people who cannot afford it”.
Referring to the Obamacare, a health insurance system introduced in the United States by former US president Barack Obama, Nolutshungu said the scheme “had its own challenges that have now come to the fore”.
“Developed and prosperous economies like the US can absorb consequences of disastrous policies for a while. But they do come home to roost,” said Nolutshungu.
South Africa was an emerging economy “that has to grow very substantially to address many challenges such as the unacceptable employment levels, upwards of 45%”.
He said it was “crucial for policy makers to accept this and other negative economic indicators as points of departure for policies they intend implementing”.
Asked how government could succeed in redressing decades of imbalances of the past created by apartheid, Nolutshungu said it was important for government to “grow the economic pie and enact policies that are going to be conducive to the proliferation of businesses, especially the small business sector responsible for the greater share of job creation”.
He explained: “This means a policy environment that is going to make it easy for people to go into business. Government does not create wealth but consumes where it employs. Even with the public works programme, it is done at the cost of taxpayers.”
Nolutshungu reminded government of the failures in socialist countries where healthcare was nationalised.
“Evidence is there for all to see. It has proven to be disastrous,” he said.