Healthcare for all

By Drum Digital
15 September 2010

IT WAS first proposed in 1994: equal healthcare for all South Africans. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that the ruling party started serious discussions about a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

Now, following criticism about its cost and viability, it was announced at the ANC’s National General Council that NHI will be pursued. In fact, the party wants to start phasing it in as soon as 2012.

Adequate and comprehensive healthcare for everyone whether or not they have jobs and can pay for it, no upfront or additional payments...The ideals recently set out in an ANC policy document in Durban sound wonderful. But it’s also controversial: South Africa’s relatively small handful of taxpayers is already shuddering at the thought of higher taxation. Because good healthcare for all is going to cost a huge amount of money.

Here’s a quick, easy guide to the NHI proposals.

How it will work

An NHI Fund (NHIF) will be created that will function like the SA Revenue Services and will be located in the Ministry of Health. The aim is for a single-payer system, as opposed to South Africa’s current multi-payer system (medical schemes): one entity, the NHIF, will act as administrator, to receive healthcare money and pay healthcare costs, from a single “insurance pool”, ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu says.

NHI membership and contributions will be compulsory for all. The more you earn, the more you’ll pay, but if you’re unemployed or earn less than a certain amount you won’t have to contribute.

Those who can afford it will be able to continue with medical scheme coverage. Private healthcare providers will be able to decide whether they want to be part of the NHI system or not.

What it will cover

People would be entitled to a package that includes: primary care and preventive services; in- and outpatient care; emergency treatment; prescription medication; appropriate technology use for diagnosis and treatment; rehabilitation; mental health services; all dental services (excluding cosmetic); substance abuse treatment; basic vision care and correction (excluding cosmetic laser correction); hearing services including hearing aids.

Read the full article in DRUM of 10 October 2010

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