Our obsession with the ANC is keeping us from engaging about what is really important. We fail deliberately in rescuing the public dialogue, writes Ralph Mathekga.
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In the current context, it takes a brave (read "delusional") government to stand up without a hint of irony or humour in order to state that they will take care of our health, writes Howard Feldman.
The timing is fascinating. If I were a conspiracy theorist,
I would've thought that it was designed to fail.
Consider the timing of the National Health Insurance (NHI)
discussion. If the ANC were to sit down and try to find the worst imaginable
time to launch this initiative, it would be now. With state capture inquiries
in full swing, the Public Protector going rogue, state-run Eskom clearly one of
the main contributing factors to the downgrades, SAA on the brink, the Post Office
all but defunct and the SABC unable to pay salaries without a bailout, it is difficult
to imagine a worse time for them have the conversation.
This is a conversation that could have been held anytime in
the past 25 years.
Within the current context, it takes a brave (read "delusional")
government to stand up without a hint of irony or humour in order to state that
they will take care of our health. That all we need to do is pay them and they
will do the rest. And that from that point onward, everyone will have access
to world class medical care. Perhaps they have taken the judgment on the
decriminalisation of marijuana too literally.
Because they are most definitely smoking something.
For the rest of us the mere thought of government being the
sole provider of healthcare is enough to raise blood pressure to dangerous
levels. With the ANC government in charge of all our healthcare; what could
possibly go wrong?
The current bill is ambiguous. Perhaps deliberately, so that
it is able to speak to all narratives. That said, the NHI in the imagined form
would likely be an unmitigated disaster. The government has proven that they
are unable to run a cake sale without stealing the ingredients and have pretty
much destroyed every enterprise that they have touched.
The "good news," at least in this sense, is that
the ANC has hardly implemented anything in the 25 years that they have been in
power. Critical conversations such as land reform continue to go nowhere and vital
issues such as Eskom and the supply and deregulation of power continues
unresolved. Schools are still a mess with pit toilets featuring in many a
venue. SAA continues to dump money like fuel before an emergency landing and
the Post Office, in the state that it's in, can hardly manage to successfully
deliver a letter.
How then could the implementation of a billion-rand
enterprise with the complexity of the NHI and that demands that each citizen
and doctor and associated medical services be registered, logged and reimbursed
ever come to fruition? Cynically, it would solve the unemployment crises as we
are likely to see more deaths than Ebola would cause and more migration than
that which occurs in the Serengeti during migration season.
The implementation date of 2026 will never happen. For a
more realistic schedule we might look to Eskom's Medupi power station, in which
case most of us would likely have died from old age way before this becomes a reality.
Implemented or not, the discussion around the NHI has
potential to do damage. Whereas there is little doubt that the NHI is needed in
some form, South Africans should have access to decent medical care. But the
extreme terms in which it is currently being discussed will discourage our
youth from entering the medical field, force our specialists to look abroad for
stability and make investors nervous.
Given government's track record and the way in which it has
managed public funds and enterprises to date, the best approach is to frame the
conversation around that which is practical, that encourages stability and that
doesn't do more damage than the good that a NHI could ever do.
PJ O'Rourke summed it up better than I could, by
saying, "If you think that healthcare is expensive now, wait until you see
what it costs when it's free."
- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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