South Africa’s healthcare system is not merely unviable or unsustainable, "it is at the brink
of collapse" if the government does not intervene,
says the Board of Healthcare Funders,
which represents most medical aid schemes
in the country.
"People are paying contributions to their medical
schemes that are higher than inflation," Humphrey
Zokufa, who heads the board, said on Tuesday at a media
briefing in Johannesburg.
He said that people have to pay copayments and their
benefits run out. In addition, the pool of insured people
is not increasing and those who are insured are ageing.
"In a situation like this, government has no option but
to intervene, and that intervention is taking the form of
the National Health Insurance [NHI]."
The NHI is a plan for significant reforms to the public
and private health sectors and aims to make affordable
healthcare available to all South Africans by pooling
money from various sources, such as the Road Accident
Fund, into a single NHI fund.
But the NHI has been severely criticised from various
sectors, including the Free Market Foundation,
which called it "unaffordable and ill conceived", and an
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi dismissed these
claims as mere "scare tactics" designed to make people
fearful. "History has shown that pooling money into a
single fund does not increase expenses for individuals; it
reduces them," he said at the media briefing.
According to Motsoaledi, government was able to
reduce the individual cost of antiretroviral medication
from R10 000 a patient a year in 2002 to the current cost
of R1 700 a patient a year by pooling funds. In the same
way, he said, the department has been able to negotiate
for lower vaccine prices.
"Since we introduced the human papillomavirus vaccine
at schools in 2014 we have vaccinated 700 000 school
girls. The cost of the vaccine then was R2 000 for the two
doses needed, so it would have cost us R1.4-billion. But
because we pooled the funds in the same way we envision
under the NHI we are only paying R200-million a year,"
The NHI white paper, which was released for public
comment in December last year, received mixed reactions
with many questioning the lack of details about
how the scheme will be funded.
But Zokufa argued that the negative comments about
the NHI could possibly be "fuelled by narrow self-interests
or by those not really looking to improve the system
for all South Africans".
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