The civil rights organisation AfriForum said today that government’s additional R30 billion per year for National Health Insurance (NHI) is an uncalculated amount that will furthermore be entirely insufficient to operate such a system. On 14 July 2019 the Sunday paper Rapport reported that Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, quoted this amount as something that would be spent on NHI in future.
Dr Eugene Brink, Health Spokesperson at AfriForum, says the mention of this amount and the minister’s explanation of the spending again shows how unfeasible this system really is. “It is another thing that was thumb sucked and will not be nearly enough to approach the full range of health priorities. MPs recently heard amounts through Treasury on how the Department of Health could not spend R600 million, which was allegedly destined for NHI, in the fourth quarter of 2018. How will they then spend an additional R30 billion on this?”
Brink mentions that South Africa in essence already possesses something such as universal healthcare. “Anyone can visit public hospitals, but due to their mainly poor condition they are inefficient to give attention to the public’s needs. The Minister’s task is to spruce up the current public health system with the funds at his disposal, and not to milk the public and destroy the private health sector.”
In short, says Brink, it is a very vague explanation of spending the R30 billion and one that existing priorities reflect.
“Mkhize mentioned that the R30 billion would, for example, be spent on chronic medication and visits to prenatal clinics. These spending priorities are things that are supposed to be done by the Department regardless of the NHI’s commencement. Currently it is being done poorly and must be improved, but this is not even done now, despite available funds. It also includes the predetermined tariffs for doctors to serve a certain number of patients in an area. It makes the wrong assumption that there are enough doctors to do the work and that they would work for predetermined tariffs.”
Another question is where this additional R30 billion will come from. “The economy is stammering and will struggle for years to come. Will they take it from other budget items or merely tax us over the brink? Both options will have disastrous consequences. The NHI remains a pipe dream and a political ANC decision that cannot be financed by the fiscus.”