NCOP postpones NHI Bill decision to next week
The bill seeks to provide universal health care through a single fund, managed by government.
Health workers are seen at the Nasrec Field Hospital for Covid-19 on 25 January 2021. Picture: Michel Bega
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has delayed passing the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.
The bill, which will pave the way for universal healthcare in South Africa, was recently adopted by the NCOP’s Select Committee on Health and Social Services without any amendments.
While the NCOP was scheduled to vote on the draft legislation on Wednesday, the matter has since been deferred to next week.
This was confirmed in a hybrid plenary session on Wednesday afternoon.
NCOP chairman Amos Masondo told MPs that party chief whips agreed to postpone the vote.
African National Congress (ANC) NCOP chief whip Seiso Mohai proposed the date of 6 December.
“I want to confirm that the consideration of the National Health Insurance Bill of 2019 that it be deferred to the 6th of December, next week on Wednesday… so the motion is amended as such,” Mohai said.
Watch the plenary below:
The NHI Bill has drawn criticism from Business Unity South Africa (Busa), Business for South Africa (B4SA) and South Africa Health Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC).
Many have argued that the legislation in its present form was unconstitutional as it does not provide for public-private sector collaboration, among other things.
But Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya has said there should not be any panic on the bill because President Cyril Ramaphosa had to peruse the legislation himself to check if the draft law was in line with the Constitution.
“Concerns have been expressed directly to the president with respect to certain parts of the bill. Once the bill has been passed, the president still has a constitutional imperative in processing that bill before he signs it. He will look at the process.
“One of the things he will look at is, has there been sufficient consultation and if so, have those consultations sufficiently addressed the issues of concern,” Magwenya said during a media briefing on Wednesday.
Magwenya said it was within Ramaphosa’s “constitutional remit” to send back a bill to Parliament if the president had any concerns.
“The passing of the bill doesn’t necessarily mark the conclusion of the process. The president does not, each time he receives a bill, just sign it as a given. If he so desires, he can open another round of consultation to satisfy himself that what he will sign will not be subjected to endless litigation.
“I don’t think there should be any panic with regards to the passing of the NHI Bill. The president will do whatever is necessary to ensure that bill passes the constitutional master and that bill, at the end of the day, deliver its ultimate objective,” the Presidency spokesperson added.
Read the bill below:
What is the NHI bill?
The NHI Bill proposes for comprehensive medical schemes to fall away despite nearly nine million South Africans being a member of a medical aid.
It also proposes that most healthcare, including doctors’ visits and medicines, would be free for everyone and medical schemes would not be able to provide cover for services that were paid for by the NHI.
The draft legislation further states that government would levy an extra tax on citizens’ personal income tax and use the money it will save by not giving tax credits for being a member of a medical scheme.