Week of mixed messages over National Health Insurance Bill
“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”. |