Health plan 'overoptimistic'

Health plan 'overoptimistic'

2009-10-09 07:49

Cape Town - Plans to implement a national health insurance model similar to those in more developed economies is likely to be overoptimistic.

Economic research company Econex says although there is a definite need for a national health insurance (NHI) system in South Africa, South Africa has a fourfold burden of illness that needs to be taken into account.

"The expectation that an NHI system like the British NHS - or those of other advanced economies - can be introduced within a short period is probably overoptimistic," reads the Econex report.

The "burden of illness" refers to the analysis of mortality, morbidity, injuries, handicaps and other risk factors in a country's health environment.

South Africa, according to Econex's research, clearly has four times this burden.

According to the latest research on the burden of illness (2000), South African deaths can largely be ascribed to non-communicable diseases (40.8%), HIV/Aids (25.5%), communicable and pregnancy-related illnesses (22.2%) and injuries (11.5%).

But in most developed countries the burden of illness is concentrated in only one area - generally non-communicable diseases, such as cancer.

South Africa's fourfold burden means that the type of treatments that out- and inpatients receive, their medication, as well as primary and other types of care, differ from those in other, more developed economies.

One implication is that more hospital beds and therefore more medical and other staff are required in a country with a high incidence of HIV/Aids, communicable illnesses and injuries.

There is currently a shortage of 42 000 nurses in the public sector and, by 2014, it is estimated the private sector will be short of 18 000.

Jasson Urbach, a director of the Free Market Foundation's health policy unit, says South Africa spent about R80.8bn on healthcare in 2008/09.

"This is more than 3.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and equal to many developed economies' health expenditure as a proportion of GDP."

"To simply throw more money at system that is already dysfunctional will not solve the underlying problems."


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