South Africa

Board of Healthcare Funders ready to challenge NHI

NHI Board of Healtcare Funders

The Board of Healthcare Funders is ready to challenge the NHI when the president finds a pen to sign it into law, as he promised in his State of the Nation speech.

The government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) plan will in fact worsen healthcare provision in South Africa as the limits placed on private healthcare funding will weaken the national health system, managing director of the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF), Dr Katlego Mothudi, says.

The BHF will hold its 23rd annual Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) conference in May, which will offer a critical platform for industry stakeholders to dissect the NHI’s implications and strategise the next steps for the industry.

“Despite ongoing debates surrounding the NHI Bill that the private sector does not support, the conference will debunk these misconceptions head-on, offering evidence-based insights into the critical role private healthcare plays in advancing Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals.”

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Integrated approach towards public and private health care

Mothudi says the industry is currently characterised by an integrated approach towards public and private health citizens. “In this regard, the BHF supports UHC and recognises the NHI as one of the mechanisms towards its progressive realisation.”

The BHF and its members have embraced the principles of the UHC and the BHF has actively developed a framework to assist its members in aligning with these principles.

“However, the BHF does not support the NHI Bill in its current form due to the unconstitutionality of several of its provisions, its proposed restriction of medical schemes and the concomitant loss of economic value that will inevitably follow.”

He says the private health funding sector in South Africa should not be sacrificed in favour of NHI. “It is a valuable source of jobs, scarce skills, infrastructure, financial investment and quality health care. The value it adds to the economy and the support it provides to the public health sector cannot be underestimated.”

Mothudi says the Bill reduces the role of the private sector and therefore the BHF wants those sections removed. “Weakening any aspect of the private health sector will weaken the national health system rather than strengthen it.”

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Many organisations ready to challenge NHI

Many parties in the health sector are getting ready to challenge NHI when it becomes law and the BHF has invited various legal experts to present a way forward for the industry should the bill be signed.

“We believe BHF members are well positioned to play a critical role in the NHI environment and we have urged them to fully adopt UHC principles. This will see them focus on health governance, understanding and providing benefits that meet the health needs of the population and redefining the business of medical aid schemes.”

The NHI Bill was passed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces without considering any submissions from stakeholders in writing or any comments at the public hearings held about the Bill.

There was strong opposition from medical associations and business and civil society groups to the Bill and various legal opinions have indicated that parts of the Bill are unconstitutional. Once the president signs the NHI Bill, it will take a decade to implement it.