Forward to universal healthcare
The Department of Health recently published its policy document on the National Health Insurance system. This lays the groundwork for South Africa to move forward to health care for all.
The Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, believes all South Africans deserve free and equitable access to healthcare. He has argued that the 45 million South Africans, mainly poor, rural and black, who rely on the overburdened public health system deserve the same quality of healthcare as fellow citizens who can afford private healthcare.
The proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) aims to integrate the efficient, but expensive, private health sector with the improving but overloaded public health system. Since 2011 this model has been tested in 11 pilot projects across the country.
This is the preparation period, when the department can test its infrastructure and financing models. Once national rollout begins, it could take up to 14 years to achieve universal coverage. The minister explained in October last year: “We are preparing the clinics in terms of infrastructure, human resources, primary health care and in terms of equipment.”
At its heart, the NHI is a finance model that pools funds to provide the same quality health services to all South Africans no matter their economic circumstances or where they live. In October 2016 the minister told delegates at the South African Pharmacy Conference that the NHI does not aim to replace private healthcare with a “poor public healthcare system that is corrupt, inefficient and unable to deliver”.
Through the 11 pilot projects, the department is refining its ability to utilise and allocate resources better. The NHI is designed to provide essential care no matter where you live with private medical aids covering specialised treatment.
The DeparTmenT of Health’s National Health Insurance is a plan to make healthcare available to all South Africans by improving the quality of clinics, hospitals, staff and equipment across the country.