Did NHI receive enough funds to keep going?

2018-02-22 09:59 - Yolandi Groenewald

Johannesburg - Did South Africa’s national health insurance (NHI) receive enough of a fund injection to be implemented any time soon?

Experts believe that despite a hefty cash injection from Malusi Gigaba, it was ultimately not enough to implement a NHI plan in a sustainable way.

Neil Kirby, director and head of healthcare and life sciences at Werksmans Attorneys, said statements in this year’s Budget Speech were unconvincing that the funds are readily available for the engineering of one of the  largest socio-economic plans in the country's history.

An additional R4.2bn has been allocated to the programme, according to the National Budget. This will be funded by the amendment of the medical expenses tax subsidy.

The National Health Insurance Bill is due to be placed before Cabinet for approval this year. But Kirby warned that much work still needed to be done in respect of the proper and constitutional construction of an insurance scheme bespoke for South Africans.

He was dubious whether the NHI’s budget allocation goes far enough. Kirby said the bill, in whatever form it will appear, will have to be thoroughly investigated at all levels. 

“In addition, the bill will have to pass through a meaningful public participation process, which may require amendments before being submitted to Parliament for approval,” he said.

Currently the private healthcare sector and other are engaged with the Department of Health on the precise framework of bodies, committees and institutions required to plan a national health insurance scheme that is appropriate for South Africa. 

“If this does not mean that the scheme is around the corner or legally imminent,” he said.

Apart from legal and fundamentally constitutional challenges and criteria that the scheme must meet, funding remains one of the greatest challenges to the successful implementation of a national health insurance scheme, Kirby believed. 

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER