What you need to know about the National Health Insurance Bill

What you need to know about the National Health Insurance Bill

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be signing the highly contested National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law on 15 May. This is what you need to know about it...

Healthcare and a doctor with a patient in surgery for pulse
Healthcare and a doctor with a patient in surgery for pulse/ iStock

The National Health Insurance Bill is a hot topic in South Africa at the moment. 

On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to sign the Bill into law at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. 

The NHI Bill was initially tabled in Parliament and introduced to the Portfolio Committee on Health on 8 August 2019 for processing, reports the South African Government News Agency.

Below, we look at the basics you need to know about NHI Bill: 

- The purpose of the bill is to provide universal health coverage for all South African citizens. The South African government website stipulates that the bill will "buy healthcare services for all of us who live in the country from health care providers in the public sector and private sector."

- The bill is also aimed at promoting the well-being of all citizens, ensuring that all have access to quality healthcare services regardless of their financial status. It will rid the country of healthcare inequality. 

- The bill will ensure that citizens do not "need to pay out-of-pocket payments such as user fees at facilities and co-payments for individuals insured by medical schemes," however, the "services will be paid for by the Fund and the patient will not have to pay at the point of care."

- The funds for NHI to run will come from taxpayers. 'The NHI is a Fund, paid by our taxes, from which the government will buy healthcare services for all of us who live in the country from healthcare providers in the public sector and private sector,' explains the SA government. It further states that "when you feel unwell, you can go to your nearest GP or clinic of your choice that has a contract with NHI and not worry about the cost of care." 

- It will improve access to care, quality of care, and continuity of care, reducing the burden of disease as more people will be able to access more facilities. 

Nursing union Denosa says the NHI will rid the country of healthcare inequality. 

"We have been consistent in our support for the NHI for various reasons. The concept of equal access to universal health coverage will finally be realised in the country, whereby everyone has equal access to healthcare on the basis of their healthcare needs and not on the basis of how deep one's pocket is," said Denosa's spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo. 

However, even with all these benefits, some in South Africa argue that the government is not capable of implementing the NHI smoothly. 

Democratic Alliance leader, John Steenhuisen, said the DA will challenge the NHI in court.

He said the the planned introduction of NHI is “more corrupt in intent, and more deadly in impact, than BEE, load shedding, cadre deployment, land expropriation, and nationalisation put together”. Read more here: DA vows to challenge NHI ‘all the way to ConCourt’

READ: Fierce debate rages as Ramaphosa prepares to put NHI pen to paper

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