Minister’s request smacks of state health capture, says DA
THE DA has taken a swipe at Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi for requesting the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) to maintain a database to access information on medical aid scheme members.
The party said Motsoaledi was asking too much and his actions were unconstitutional.
A letter that the minister wrote to the CMS, which was released by the official opposition at a media briefing in Parliament yesterday, said the information would be used to monitor the impact of current policies.
“Additionally, the Department of Health would need this information to identify medical aid scheme members who access services in the public sector,” Motsoaledi’s letter said.
The CMS was also requested to regularly update basic personal, demographic (including addresses) details of all medial aid scheme members and their beneficiaries.
“The information related to the medical history of medical aid scheme members is not required.”
The CMS’s registrar, Daniel Lehutjo, subsequently sent a circular to medical aid schemes ordering that they furnish the required information to the CMS.
But DA health spokesperson Wilmot James described Motsoaledi’s request as “outrageous” and in violation of the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act.
“Additionally, it poses a real security risk to individual citizens,” James pointed out.
The DA’s justice spokesperson, Glynnis Breytenbach, said such a database would be a “huge undertaking that could be used for all kinds of purposes, and is largely illegal and damaging to individuals”.
She insisted that the information the minister was asking for was more than what he needed.
“Nothing has been put in place to safeguard adequately the type of information he wants,” Breytenbach said.
While James said it was legitimate to obtain the names of medial aid scheme members who accessed public healthcare, he insisted that everyone had a right to privacy.
“He (the minister) is asking for information that specifies too much.
“In fact it is unconstitutional and illegal,” he said.
James added that Popi did not sanction the database as envisaged by Motsoaledi.
“This could be another instance of state capture, this time by Minister Motsoaledi, to make sure medical aid scheme members are led to National Health Insurance rather than for prudent and market regulatory purposes.”
James warned that an effort to use the CMS for any political ends would face a legal challenge.
Motsoaledi’s spokesperson Joe Maila said the ministry noted with concern the DA’s statement and dismissed the notion that they were acting unconstitutionally.
Maila said the department had planned to develop a benefits registry which had been included in the department’s annual performance plan since 2014/15.
“Developing the national registry has been part of the approved plans and no member of Parliament has ever raised a query.”
Maila also said the personal information in the proposed database would be used to identify medical aid scheme members so that their scheme could be billed for services rendered by the public sector.
“A number of medical schemes have contracts with the public sector for their members to access services. However, their members fail to identify themselves and/or provide accurate information regarding their scheme so that their scheme can be billed.”
He also said that for the CMS to plan and develop policy, summarised information on members was crucial.
“We are aware that some schemes do not want this information to be available, neither to the department nor the public. They have a lot to hide,” Maila said.
“They go around mobilising proxies to fight this battle for them,” he added.