Public urged to participate in NHI process

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vryheid - President Jacob Zuma has urged the public to participate in the debates and consultative process around the National Health Insurance (NHI). 

"Once the consultation process has started, we urge the public to study the proposals, engage in debates and contribute resources, skills and expertise to the final product that will emerge after consultations," the President said.

The President added that the NHI will be implemented in a phased manner to allow for consultation, policy making and legislation review. 

He said before implementation, the government will consult with all sectors affected, especially the workers, employers, health providers as well as suppliers and health funders. 

"The broad objective of the NHI is to put in place the necessary funding and health service delivery mechanisms," he said, addressing a large crowd gathered for the National Women's Day celebration in Vryheid, at the weekend.

"Our people told us that at some clinics they are given pain killers for every ailment, as there is nothing else that is available. A key solution will be the introduction of the NHI scheme for the county.

The President said the scheme would expand health coverage to all South Africans, regardless of their economic or social status, eliminating financial barriers. 

"No upfront payment will be required by the doctor or hospital. Certain categories of workers, due to their low-income status, will be exempt from the contribution."

The scheme is anticipated to enable the creation of an efficient, equitable and sustainable health system in the country and would be based on principles of the right to health, social solidarity and universal coverage.

It is envisaged that the NHI will be funded through a combination of current sources of government spending, including the removal of tax subsidy for medical schemes and a modest mandatory or compulsory contribution by employer-employee contribution which will be spilt equally. 

President Zuma said government will collect and allocate money for healthcare to service providers. 

"All these funds would be placed in a single pool that would be available to fund all healthcare facilities in the public and private health sector. The intention is that the contribution should be less than what members and their employers currently pay to medical aid schemes," he said. 

Disadvantaged women and children are anticipated to be the main beneficiaries of the scheme. The NHI will also be used a key tool in reducing infant mortality. 

As the country celebrates Women's Month thousands of women and children have no access to appropriate and quality healthcare due to challenges that exist in the current health care system. 

President Zuma said government would measure its progress by reducing the number of women who do not have access to quality healthcare. 

"Women are affected most by inadequate healthcare and facilities in some parts of our country. We will pat ourselves on the back when the mother and infant mortality rates are reduced or are eradicated when we have improved our health care system," he said.