The Democratic Alliance has criticised the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, saying the government has misdiagnosed the healthcare system’s ailments and its proposed prescription will fail to address the problems.
In August, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi published the green paper on the NHI, which seeks to improve access to quality health services for both the rich and poor and to strengthen the under-resourced public health sector.
While funding for the proposed system is yet to be clarified, the state estimates that the NHI, which it seeks to rollout over a 12-year period, would cost R225-billion by 2025.
But the DA argues that its own research shows serious doubts around the feasibility of the NHI and that it could actually work against its objective of providing quality health services.
The party said the government was simply throwing money at a problem, while the same funds could be better used elsewhere.
“The NHI, as presented by the national government in its green paper, is not a cure-all for our public health system. On the contrary, it promises to make our healthcare problems even worse by centralising and over-bureaucratising public health,” said the DA.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said they believe that the poor would suffer more under the NHI because it would divert billions of rands from other development challenges such as provision of basic services, education and housing.
DA’s spokesperson on health, Mike Waters, told journalists in Parliament that the proposed system does not fix the problem of low-quality healthcare provision in the public sector. Instead, the green paper focuses on accessibility and finance, “when we already have universal accessibility” and enough funding to run a quality public health system.
“What it lacks is quality, which should be the government’s main priority.”
Waters said the NHI green paper also failed to adequately attend to accountability and management structures.
While the green paper called for an office of standards compliance, its members would be appointed by, and would answer to, the health minister.
“It will not be truly independent, making it vulnerable to political influence,” Waters said.
Human resources were lacking to introduce NHI, which demanded that the current 27 000 doctors be tripled.
South Africa spent R2 766 on public healthcare per person each year — far more than other developing countries.
Malaysia, for instance, spent only R2 180 per capita, Thailand R1 700 per capita, Namibia R1 594 per capita, and China a mere R846 per capita.
“These countries enjoy higher levels of life expectancy than South Africa, which suggests that money is not the primary problem with our public healthcare system.”
Alternatively, the party proposed a system which centres on infusing accountability, affordability and efficiency into every level of healthcare. — Additional reporting by Sapa