Ramaphosa signs major health bill South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, flanked by Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla and other stake holders, pose for a group photo at the Union Buildings, after signing the National Health Insurance Bill into law in Pretoria yesterday.

PRETORIA. – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday signed into law a bill that aims to provide universal health coverage, hailing it as a major step towards a more just society

The National Health Insurance (NHI) Act takes aim at a two-tier health system, in which a publicly funded sector that serves 84 percent of the population is overburdened and run-down while some people have access to better treatment through private insurance.

The NHI Bill will change South Africa’s healthcare system and ensure universal coverage for all.

The legislation will gradually limit the role of private insurance, create a new public fund to provide free access for South African citizens, and set the fees and prices that private doctors and healthcare suppliers can charge for NHI-funded benefits.

Mr Ramaphosa said the challenge in implementing the NHI Bill was not funds, but in the misallocation of resources that favoured the private sector.

“We are not mad, we are not out liars, we are very much in line with what is happening in the global community. The real challenge in implementing NHI lies not in lack of funds but in the misallocation of recourses that currently favours the private health sector at the expense of public health needs, that’s where the problem is.”

Mr Ramaphosa said those who wanted to keep their privilege were on a wrong boat.

“Now the implementation of the NHI will be done in a phased manner in a phase approach. With key milestones in each phase rather than an overnight event. Some fear that yes overnight, it is just boom, going to happen. And we are saying it’s going to be phased.”

The president has also attributed the fears that people have regarding the NHI Act to the fear that citizens once had when black people gained their right to vote.

Mr Ramaphosa added that financial hurdles facing the NHI could be managed.

“A number of South Africans were terrified that all these many South Africans, largely black would now have the right to vote and they were so terrified. Some of them started collecting tinned food, putting it in their cupboards, hundreds of tins, fearing that a calamity is about to descend on them. We all got the right to vote and nothing happened, only progress.”

The signing ceremony took place amid threats from some quarters to take the matter to court following concerns that include a lack of funding for the scheme.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and other stakeholders say they want Ramaphosa to explain how the scheme will be funded.

Busa’s Khulekani Mathe says, “As business, we do support the goal and objective of universal health coverage. We support it but we think the NHI in its current form does not take us in that direction. If anything, it undermines that goal in a sense that as a country … certain number of resources that are available like financial and human resources to service our needs. You then cannot ignore these resources and think that you can simply proceed to implement such major reforms without taking this into account.” – sabcnews

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