Thumbs-down to NHI, says Health24 survey

Health24 readers have given an overwhelming thumbs-down to the government’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) – two thirds of us simply don’t believe it will work, or that it can deliver value.

In a recent medical schemes survey run by Health24, respondents argue that the fundamentals aren’t in place to make it work. ‘I know my medical care will be negatively affected,’ writes one respondent, simply summing up the overall anxiety.

‘I do agree that all South Africans should have access to affordable healthcare,’ writes another. ‘However, NHI is a pipe dream at the moment as there are too few taxpayers to fund it, and there needs to be well-functioning state hospital/medical facilities in order to implement it. As we all know, the state hospitals are under-equipped and under-staffed.’

‘It has not worked successfully in any other country,’ comments one reader, ‘what the heck makes the government think it will work here?’

The government doesn’t have the will to make it work, readers believe. ‘NHI will deliver only if implementers are serious and dedicated to making it work,’ comments one respondent. ‘If the department of health can't efficiently run themselves and provide service now,’ adds another, ‘how will they manage to do so with even more people needing to make use of it when they can't afford private because of the hike in taxes?... The government needs to show they can manage health first before they try to run an NHI.’

On the plus side, many of us, burdened by the high cost of medical schemes, hope the NHI might make a positive difference in terms of options available. ‘Should the NHI be implemented, covering prescribed minimum benefits (PMB), I would definitely consider a “top-up” medical aid feature, provided it is fairly priced,’ writes one respondent.

Who filled in the survey?

The medical schemes survey was run online on Health24 in September 2010. It was sponsored by the open medical scheme Selfmed and attracted over 5,000 responses.

Of the respondents, just over half (53%) are married; and the overwhelming majority – 71% - live in households of 2-4 people. Just under half earn between R10,000 and R30,000 a month. Most - 78% - have medical scheme cover, with slightly more families belonging to open schemes like Selfmed  or Discovery, which one joins as a private member, than to closed or company/industry schemes like the government scheme Gems or the SAPS scheme Polmed.

Actually, we quite like our medical schemes

Generally, the downer on NHI might be a function of the fact that we seem to be quite pleased with our medical schemes: 66% of us are comfortable with our degree of hospital cover, while only 19% are not; and 61% of us rate the service we get from our medical schemes to be good or excellent. Only 5% say it is patchy, or poor.

Money stress

Just under 50% of respondents say they spend between R1,000 and R3,000 a month on their medical schemes, and that the cost of these schemes is the single biggest source of restlessness. Just under three quarters of respondents – 73% - said money considerations were ‘very important’ when choosing their scheme. Of those who are on a medical scheme, 35% are themselves or are supporting someone who is registered for chronic medication.

(Heather Parker, Health24, January 2011)

Read more:

Medical schemes: what matters most?

Medical schemes survey report-back


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