Calls made for amended NHI bill to be ‘sent back’

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - KERRY CUL­LI­NAN STAFF WRITER

THE PRES­I­DENCY and Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi seem in­tent on push­ing the Na­tional Health In­sur­ance (NHI) Bill through Par­lia­ment be­fore next year’s elec­tion de­spite ma­jor unan­swered ques­tions.

The re­vised NHI Bill was pre­sented to Cabi­net’s so­cial clus­ter sub-com­mit­tee on Tues­day in prepa­ra­tion for Cabi­net, ac­cord­ing to the health de­part­ment.

How­ever, the de­part­ment failed to an­swer a num­ber of other ques­tions in­clud­ing why it was push­ing the Bill through the leg­isla­tive pipe­line so fast - when even Health Direc­tor-Gen­eral Pre­cious Mat­soso ad­mit­ted last week that she had not seen the lat­est draft.

Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have called on Cabi­net to “send the NHI Bill back to the De­part­ment of Health and to re­quire a proper and thor­ough con­sul­ta­tion process and con­sid­er­a­tion of op­tions avail­able for im­prove­ment of ac­cess to and qual­ity of health care ser­vices in the coun­try”.

Pro­fes­sor Olive Shisana, the NHI ad­vi­sor in the Pres­i­dency, is driv­ing the NHI process and has al­legedly changed a num­ber of clauses, ac­cord­ing to in­sid­ers.

The Bill has not been dis­cussed in the Na­tional Health Coun­cil es­tab­lished by the Na­tional Health Act to ad­vise the Min­is­ter of Health on pol­icy and on pro­posed health leg­is­la­tion.

Act­ing Direc­tor Gen­eral Ismail Momo­niat wrote a let­ter to Shisana last week say­ing that Trea­sury could not sup­port the lat­est ver­sion of the Bill as it had been “very sub­stan­tively amended in Oc­to­ber”, re­mov­ing var­i­ous agree­ments reached be­tween the Min­is­ters of Fi­nance and Health.

Trea­sury was par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about amend­ments to the pow­ers of prov­inces to de­liver health­care, in­ad­e­quate cost­ing of func­tions and the rel­e­ga­tion of med­i­cal schemes to a com­ple­men­tary role which was “pre­ma­ture” and opened the Bill to le­gal chal­lenges.

How­ever, af­ter the let­ter was leaked to the me­dia, Trea­sury is­sued a state­ment de­scrib­ing it as “part of the vi­brant and on­go­ing en­gage­ment to en­sure pol­icy co­her­ence”.

“We have made sub­stan­tial progress on key ar­eas and have reached agree­ment on most of the ma­jor is­sues,” added Trea­sury. “Many of the is­sues raised by Trea­sury have been sub­stan­tively ad­dressed. We are con­fi­dent that we will soon pub­lish this im­por­tant Bill for tabling in Par­lia­ment.”

Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions claim that the draft Bill was pre­pared even be­fore a Pres­i­den­tial Sum­mit that was sup­pos­edly called to con­sult var­i­ous par­ties about the NHI.

“Pub­lic com­ments on the NHI over the past decade do not ap­pear to have been taken into ac­count, ei­ther be­tween the Green and White Papers and the Bill or af­ter the draft Bill was pub­lished for pub­lic com­ment,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Treat­ment Ac­tion Cam­paign (TAC), SECTION27, Ru­ral Health Ad­vo­cacy Pro­ject (RHAP), Peo­ple’s Health Move­ment (PHM) and Lawyers for Hu­man Rights (LHR).

“This makes a mock­ery of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion as re­quired by the Con­sti­tu­tion and opens the Bill up to fu­ture at­tack and de­lay on these grounds.”

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