Health plan ‘is anti-poor’

2009-06-10 17:30

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance demanded on Wednesday that the government unveil its plans for a National Health Insurance, saying secrecy would lead to a flawed system which will make healthcare more expensive but not better.

The party said leaked details of the plan suggested it would cost the taxpayer R100m a year, but would do nothing to improve the state of hospitals or address the shortage of doctors and nurses.

"As always, the poor will be hardest hit, because the NHI does nothing to address the crisis in public healthcare. That crisis has been caused by a shortage of nurses and doctors, inadequate facilities and resources, and weak management systems.

"The poor bear the brunt of it. The NHI is not pro-poor. In fact it is anti-poor. It is a sure-fire recipe for the destruction of public healthcare," DA spokesperson Mike Waters said.

The ANC has for weeks been under fire from opposition parties and private medical aid schemes for failing to unveil its plans for the NHI and open the policy-drafting process to public participation.

ANC slammed media reports

The party this week slammed media reports raising concerns about the planned system, and said it needed to conclude "internal processes on the NHI" before making a public statement on the matter.

Waters accused the ANC of seeking to avoid scrutiny of proposals drafted by an ideologically-skewed task team by trying, unsuccessfully, to sneak legislation which lays the foundation for the NHI through Parliament.

He said three bills linked to the NHI that were published in the Government Gazette this month failed to pass through Parliament's Joint Tagging system for lack of public consultation.

Task team ‘has agenda’

Waters said the task team, headed by former director general of health Olive Shisana, was dominated by trade unionists who were pursuing "a particular agenda".

This perception was confounded by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's recent remark that the blueprint was based on the principle that "those who earn more will pay more".

Waters said to fund the system, the health budget would have to grow by 40%, which would see households pay some 9% of their gross income in additional taxes.


"The implication of this is that the ANC understands there is to be a limitless source of income from the already overburdened taxpayers.

"Particularly in the current economic crisis, this assumption is dangerous and potentially catastrophic."

He said the public health system did not need an expensive overhaul but better-paid doctors, competent managers instead of political appointees and rigorous quality testing.

"The assumption is made that more money will solve all problems. But in fact the problems of the healthcare system are not primarily about money, but performance."