‘NHI success depends on collaboration between public and private health sector’

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Momentum Health Solutions executive Damian McHugh says the need for the National Health Insurance (NHI) is due to the inequality seen in the health sector. McHugh says the group is in full support of NHI to ensure quality healthcare for all. McHugh was speaking at the Momentum Health Solutions Summit.

McHugh says NHI is important because it will help take the burden off public hospitals. He says it will also see more people covered through affordable health insurance.

He adds that the medical aid schemes industry seems to be no longer growing as the health insurance industry dominates the market. According to Momentum’s report, the health insurance industry saw 90% take-up of health insurance by people who have never been part of a medical aid before.

“Our best guess, because we don’t have the exact numbers for all of them is that there’s more than a million people covered by health insurance now in South Africa outside of the medical scheme industry and we believe there’s opportunity to even grow this industry even more. And it’s important that we do it in the absence of NHI but also as the steppingstone towards NHI,” says McHugh.

With the NHI Bill at its consultative stage, it continues to face challenges which amongst others are fears of corruption in governance, possible additional tax, the ambiguity of the role of medical schemes and the delivery system which could lead to a shortage of providers.

“If you don’t get the governance of it right, the doctor registration, the movements of doctors and we’re getting to the delivery system a little bit later and you just mess up one of those transactions. What happens to that whole community? I don’t trust that it doesn’t work. I don’t want to go here. We’ve got to start to make sure that it works well right from the very beginning,” McHugh elaborates.

McHugh says for the NHI to be successful, there needs to be better collaboration between the public and private hospitals, just as it was done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So, we see the two sectors working together in order for that outcome to realize it should not be in. Our view one sector at the expense of the other. It doesn’t mean we have to kill the private sector to make the public work and we don’t think the public sector must be killed to make private sector work,” McHugh explains.

McHugh says legislation relating to medical schemes needs to be overhauled, given that today’s medical schemes are now faced with a very different context to what they were 30 years ago.