Cape Town - Eight out of nine provinces represented in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) voted in favour of the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI), despite many opposition parties and the private sector being opposed to it as it stands.
The Western Cape was the only province that voted against the bill.
The bill made its final steps in the NCOP yesterday, before it is signed into law by the president.
This comes after the ANC deliberated since 1994 about introducing a healthcare system that would be affordable for all, particularly the poor.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said it marks another important milestone in the journey by the country to realise universal health coverage to ensure universal access to quality and affordable healthcare for all South Africans as enshrined in the Constitution.
He said that although there are still other processes to be followed before the NHI Bill is signed into law, “as the Ministry of Health we are pleased with the progress made so far, especially the outcomes of today’s debate and voting process in the National Council of Provinces in favour of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.
“This is a landmark moment for our country and specifically for our health system as we move towards realising universal health coverage through the phased-approach implementation of NHI as a mechanism to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all citizens,” said Phaahla.
“NHI represents a significant milestone in South Africa’s commitment to achieving universal health coverage, and we are confident that, with the support of all stakeholders, we will create a healthcare system that is fair, efficient and accessible to all.”
Martin van Staden, head of policy at the Free Market Foundation (FMF), said that big businesses, particularly the medical schemes industry, was rightly primarily concerned with Section 33 of the bill, which provides that upon the full implementation of the NHI, medical schemes may offer only complementary benefits for services not covered by the NHI fund.
He said businesses have also, to their credit, warned that raising taxes to fund the NHI would be ineffectual but also devastating for the already overtaxed economy.
“Businesses ought not be disappointed about what they should have seen coming a mile away, and with sufficient forewarning.
“It was beyond naïve for business representatives to believe the African National Congress would shrug off its harmful ideological preconceptions during an election season,” said Van Staden.
“The NHI is intended to completely (if not immediately, then gradually) destroy the private healthcare sector in South Africa, which is the envy of the continent.
“Given this, any future reform-oriented government, whether elected in 2024, 2029 or 2034, will have no choice but to undo the NHI.