South African lawmakers have voted in favour of a controversial new health insurance bill that aims to provide free universal health care to millions of poorer citizens.
On Tuesday, South African MPs agreed to the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI), which will be implemented in stages at a cost of billions of dollars. Reportedly, the bill proposes a special fund that will attract public and private resources and limit private medical aid service providers in the country. However, the experts fear that the bill may not be sustainable.
Joe Phaahla, the Minister of Health of South Africa, said, “We accept that the NHI bill will not be the silver bullet that will fix all our health problems, but it is the necessary foundation to build on for a progressive improvement of access with quality and equity.” He said that the bill would create “an equitable, accessible, affordable, and strengthened healthcare system.”
Michéle Odette Clarke, Shadow Minister of Health of South Africa, said, “The NHI is not the purported miracle the ANC (African National Congress) purports it to be.”
After a heated debate on Monday, Parliament’s lower National Assembly voted 205 in favour and 125 against the bill. This needs to be passed by the upper house of parliament, before being signed into law by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
If the bill comes into law, a fund will be established to provide health care to everyone at rates to be determined by the South African government.
According to Health Minister Joe Phaahla, the new law will “ensure all the people of South Africa have access to the same clinic or hospital (either public or private) without paying — the government will pay.”
Reportedly, the bill will cover all South Africans, employed or unemployed, no matter their income. Joe Phaahla said, “This is one of the most revolutionary pieces of legislation presented to this house since the dawn of our democracy in 1994.”