Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla describes adoption of NHI as historic

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla said the adoption of the NHI Bill was historic. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Newspapers

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla said the adoption of the NHI Bill was historic. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Newspapers

Published Dec 6, 2023


Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has described the adoption of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) as historic and part of the transformative of the healthcare system.

He said even the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, backed the NHI when he met with President Cyril Ramaphosa and other heads of state in the UN General Assembly in September where he urged for universal health coverage.

However, Phaahla dismissed DA MP Willem Aucamp’s suggestion that the NHI was unaffordable.

Aucamp said Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said publicly that the fiscus would not be able to afford the NHI.

Phaahla said on Wednesday, during the adoption of the Bill, that the NHI will transform the healthcare system.

But the EFF, IFP, DA and Freedom Front Plus said they rejected the NHI.

They said it was the electioneering programme of the ANC, and was unaffordable.

EFF MP Mmabatho Mokause said the NHI will benefit the private sector.

She said the ANC has misled the public that the NHI will improve public health access, but public health infrastructure was already collapsing. This was a far cry from what the ANC was promising the people.

IFP MP Nhlanhla Hadebe said they also did not support the NHI. He said in the current form it would not be possible to implement it.

Hadebe also said the NHI was unaffordable. The current state of hospitals and other health facilities were in a state of collapse.

Another DA MP Cathlene Labuschagne warned that the bill will face the legal challenge.

But Phaahla stuck to his guns that the NHI will be implemented.

“I am not saying debating other policies is not important, but really in terms of intervention of transforming the health system where we come from this is indeed a very historic day and a very historic achievement because here today we are putting into place, into the statute a framework to create an opportunity where we can be able to transform the health services, create equity and make sure that the perpetual divisions of South Africans in health can come to an end,” said Phaahla.

Phaahla also shot down suggestions that Godongwana, who is a senior member of Cabinet, has expressed his reservations by saying recently that the NHI was unaffordable.

“All that I can say is that the minister of finance is a colleague in Cabinet. This bill was approved by cabinet. The minister of finance operates under the auspices of collective decisions of Cabinet,” said Phaahla.

The bill will now be sent to Ramaphosa to be signed into law.

But Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said last week the president will not simply sign the bill into law. He will first satisfy himself if all processes were followed before it was adopted by the NCOP. Ramaphosa will also establish if it meets Constitutional muster.

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