Budget: First steps for national health insurance

2011-02-23 13:00

This year’s budget takes the first steps in establishing the national health insurance (NHI) scheme, according to the National Treasury.

“Government is intensifying investment in health services as part of the ten-point plan to restructure public health, which includes NHI,” it said in its Budget Review, tabled in Parliament today.

A health infrastructure grant had been established, new facilities were being built and existing ones upgraded.

In addition, a “family health approach” to primary health care was being launched, at a cost of R1.2 billion over the next three years.

It said the “family health” approach drew on a successful programme in Brazil.

Teams comprising nurses, doctors and community health workers would look after families in “revitalised public health facilities”, with an emphasis on prevention rather than cure.

The quality of care in hospitals was being improved – thanks to an amount of R2.7 billion.

A total of R117 million had been allocated to set up an office of standards compliance, an independent authority that would include an inspectorate and an ombudsman.

“These and other improvements to the public health system will require higher revenues to ensure adequate financing over the long term,” the Review said.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said in his Budget Speech that these interventions would be “laying the foundations for NHI”.

The review said the NHI would also rely on efficient delivery structures for health services, and a sound payment approach for health providers.

“Joint work of the National Treasury and the department of health is in progress on the fiscal and financial arrangements for these reforms.”

The national department of health said in its spending estimates that this year a detailed plan for implementing NHI would be produced, a public discussion paper released, and draft legislation compiled.

The Review said spending on the health sector was expected to grow from the current R102.5 billion to R113 billion in 201112, and R127 billion in 2013/14, at an average yearly growth rate of 7.5%.

The Budget allocated an additional R1.4 billion to improve maternal and child health services through a range of interventions that included training 400 nurses and midwives, improved school health services, and better supervision of obstetric and paediatric services in district hospitals.

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