HASA welcomes release of NHI green paper

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pretoria - The Hospital Association of South Africa (HASA) has welcomed the release of the green paper on the National Health Insurance (NHI).

"We now have a document that sets out at a high level where we are headed... Obviously, more details need to be provided in some areas, but it is a pragmatic document that for the first time in 80 years, is a step towards achieving universal healthcare coverage," said HASA chairman Nkaki Matlala.

The green paper on the NHI was released on Friday for public comment.

The NHI is expected to get rolling in April 2012 as a pilot for the next five years.

Welcoming the opportunity for broader engagement on the NHI, Matlala said HASA looked forward to working with government to find ways to help make quality healthcare accessible to more South Africans.

However, HASA raised concerns over the three- month period for public consultation.

"... Given the extensive and lengthy time taken by government in the development of this paper, the public consultation period of only three months appears unusually short for necessary and valuable input from the general public and civil society stakeholders," it said.

Matlala said the green paper recognised many of the challenges facing the public sector, including improving quality of care and the number of skilled health professionals to deliver the required services.

He pointed out that while the green paper said private healthcare costs had increased 121% between 2001 and 2009, this should be contextualised against the backdrop of contributions to public healthcare increasing by more than 100% over the same period.

"Even the price of bread has increased 111% over the decade... We have to face up to the fact that the cost of living has gone up, including healthcare," Matlala said.

There were opportunities for hospitals to contract to the NHI, although cost agreements would need to be determined, he added.

"We are encouraged by the opportunity to engage with government on the NHI and help make the vision of universal coverage a reality," Matlala said.

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