NHI debate needs time: Sama

2010-09-29 13:02

Cape Town - A debate on National Health Insurance (NHI) should not be conducted in haste, the SA Medical Association (Sama) said on Wednesday.

"We advise that nothing should be done in haste to chase time," Sama chairperson Norman Mabasa said.

"We believe any debate should be given adequate time and we support and will robustly participate in such a debate on NHI.

"Undoubtedly, without consensus and a buy-in from all on how to achieve universal access to health care, any system will be doomed to failure."

Mabasa said Sama, which represents public and private sector medical practitioners, was "unequivocally committed" to the principle of universal access to health care.

The organisation, he said, was studying the ANC's NHI document released at its national general council (NGC) in Durban last week.

"Reports to the contrary that have suggested that we are against this, or that the ANC national general council document is without merit, are inaccurate," he said in a statement.

R128bn initial cost

"However we do encourage that processes that have been put in place such as the Ministerial Advisory Committee are allowed to continue and as such complete its work and advise the minister on its recommendations."

The ANC said at its NGC last week that it wanted to implement national health insurance from 2012.

According to the ANC's proposals, the programme was expected to cost R128bn in its first year, increasing to R376bn by 2025.

The party wants the NHI to be phased in over 14 years, starting from 2012 in under-served areas where people have difficulty accessing health care.

Membership to the NHI would be compulsory for the whole population but the public could choose whether to continue with voluntary medical scheme cover.

The proposal suggests that the NHI be funded from various sources including a surcharge on taxable income, payroll taxes for employees and employers, and an increase in value added tax which is earmarked for the NHI.