Week of mixed mes­sages over Na­tional Health In­sur­ance Bill

The Mercury - - METRO -

“WE HAVE no doubt that en­e­mies of NHI (Na­tional Health In­sur­ance) will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to try to stop it from be­com­ing a re­al­ity, fail­ing which they will try to cast doubt and as­per­sions on the in­tegrity of the process,” ac­cord­ing to a Health Min­istry state­ment.

“We wish to re­as­sure the na­tion that no law is be­ing breached nor any il­le­gal­ity or ir­reg­u­lar­ity com­mit­ted in the man­ner in which the leg­isla­tive process to­wards the re­al­i­sa­tion of NHI is be­ing con­ducted by the Depart­ment of Health, its of­fi­cials, the Trea­sury, the Pres­i­dency and the rest of gov­ern­ment.”

The state­ments fol­low a week of me­dia re­ports about ap­par­ent breaches of pro­to­col in the devel­op­ment of the lat­est ver­sion of the bill, which was sub­mit­ted to the cab­i­net’s so­cial devel­op­ment sub­com­mit­tee.

A let­ter writ­ten by the act­ing di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Trea­sury, Is­mail Momo­niat, to NHI pres­i­den­tial ad­viser Dr Olive Shisana was re­cently leaked to the me­dia. In it, Momo­niat said the 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.

Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions said the three-month com­ment pe­riod on the bill had been too short, and called on the 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 for the im­prove­ment of ac­cess to and qual­ity of health­care ser­vices in the coun­try”.

The Treat­ment Ac­tion Cam­paign, Sec­tion27, Ru­ral Health Ad­vo­cacy Project, Peo­ple’s Health Move­ment and Lawyers for Hu­man Rights said the cur­rent bill “risks dam­age to the func­tional el­e­ments of the health sys­tem – pub­lic and pri­vate” and that the “gov­ern­ment needs to fo­cus on fix­ing the crises in pri­vate and pub­lic health”.

But the min­istry said the health min­is­ter had al­ready ex­plained that “what­ever out­stand­ing is­sue that could not be raised through pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion within that pe­riod of three months will still be achieved when Par­lia­ment con­ducts pub­lic hear­ings through­out the coun­try”.

It also said the Pres­i­dency was driv­ing the NHI at the re­quest of the min­is­ter be­cause it was “a huge seis­mic event which would need the guid­ance of the head of state”. |

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