/ 16 May 2024

National Health Insurance: DA cites government failures and risk of looting

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DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has criticised the National Health Insurance (NHI), asserting that it will not solve the systemic issues plaguing South Africa’s healthcare sector.

 DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube voiced the party’s concerns outside the Union Buildings after President Cyril Ramaphosa enacted the legislation on Wednesday.

She accused the ANC of scapegoating when it blamed private healthcare that is received by about 16% of the population as the root of the problem in the healthcare sector, arguing that the real issues lie in failures in public healthcare facilities such as Baragwanath and Tembisa hospitals.

“It is wrong that there are people who are not getting good healthcare when they go to Baragwanath hospital, it is wrong that babies are dying at Tembisa Hospital — but that omission has been the fault of the government,” Gwarube stated.

The DA does not oppose the principle of universal healthcare but insists that the government’s approach is flawed, she said. 

“Universal health care is where the majority of your citizens are able to access quality health care services. What we are against is using a bill and saying to people’ by signing this bill, all those problems are going to go away’,” she said.

Gwarube said the government has a constitutional obligation to ensure quality care across all health facilities, whether public or private. 

“The problem here is that they have not been able to keep the quality of care at the level it should be. It should not matter whether you go to a Mediclinic or Baragwanath hospital. It is a government responsibility, it is not the private sector’s responsibility that they either lower their standard or up their standards to suit your needs as a government.”

She warned that the NHI could lead to financial mismanagement and corruption “and with mass looting, more people would die”, Gwarube cautioned.

She also highlighted the potential financial burden on taxpayers. “The additional tax burden that we will have, there is absolutely no way that the government will be able to fund this kind of extravagant R300 billion a year unless we start to increase the margins of tax.”

The DA plans to challenge the NHI in court within the next 30 days. 

“We are currently putting our papers together and our lawyers have been briefed because we knew that despite the inputs that were made by academics, industry experts, business and political parties, we knew the ANC would ram this bill through the parliamentary process,” Gwarube said.