ANC sticks to its guns on health plan

The African National Congress (ANC) on Monday criticised media reports of its health plan and vowed to continue its efforts.

“We will transform healthcare in South Africa and will not be deterred by narrow interest groups and individuals bent on undermining the introduction of NHI [National Health Insurance] before its work is made public,” ANC spokesperson Jesse Duarte said in a statement.

“The ANC has noted with concern media reports attempting to deflect public attention away from the crucial work of the National Health Insurance task team.”

On Friday, the Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa) issued a statement saying that health economist Alex van den Heever told its conference in Durban that from his knowledge of the NHI, the system was a “completely unworkable, unaffordable solution that won’t improve health services despite massive increases in expenditure”.

Van den Heever said one of the proposals made in the yet-to-be released document, compiled by the ANC task team researching the matter, was increasing the health budget by R100-billion.

“The danger is that there seems to be an attempt to avoid debate on this issue,” he said.

“The documents have been produced, but have not been subjected to external peer review or technical analysis,” Van den Heever was quoted as telling conference delegates.

Duarte said the accusations of critics such as Van den Heever were without substance.

“Unsubstantiated claims of an NHI ‘secret report’ and ‘non-consultative’ approach of the NHI task team are untrue and only seek to create public confusion,” she said.

The ANC was going through an “internal process” on the NHI policy and would only make public statements once it was concluded, said Duarte.

The Democratic Alliance on Monday attacked this process.

“As things stand, it appears that the ANC is trying to force through its implementation by avoiding public debate on the matter,” said DA MP and health spokesperson Mike Waters in a statement.

“There are no parliamentary health committee meetings scheduled yet to discuss this. There must be more room for public input.”

Waters accused the ANC of making NHI policy “covered in a cloak of secrecy” and without consulting experts.

Meanwhile, using taxation to fund the government’s national health plan was “only a possibility”, the Department of Health said on Monday.

“[Taxation is] one of the possibilities, but it does not forego other possibilities,” said health spokesperson Fidel Radebe.

Earlier in the day, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told the SABC that funding for the NHI programme could come from taxation.

“Those of us who earn better pay more tax. All government functions work like that,” said Motsoaledi.

“What the minister said is correct, that’s one of the possibilities,” said Radebe.

He did not know what the other possibilities were or provide any other details of a preliminary report on the NHI due to be released Wednesday.

President Jacob Zuma touched on the introduction of an NHI during his State of the Nation address last week, but there is a growing call from the private healthcare sector for details on how the ANC’s plan to achieve affordable universal healthcare will work.—AFP