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Opposition grows over NHI Bill as President defends equality

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Opposition against the signing into law of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in its current form, is increasing. President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the NHI as one government’s effort to ensure equality in the provision of healthcare.

He was addressing dozens of businesspeople mainly from the Muslim community in Centurion outside Pretoria.

The President is expected to sign the much-awaited NHI Bill into law on Wednesday. But he is in for an uphill as Business Unity South Africa vows to challenge it in court saying it’s unimplementable and damaging to the country’s healthcare sector.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is also opposing the Bill saying it is not affordable and will go all the way to challenge even at the apex court. But Ramaphosa says the Bill will go through whether people like it or not.

“The NHI is one of those focus areas which is going to help poor people and now the opposition on NHI is coming from the well to rich people. This is what often happens, the haves don’t want have nots to benefit from what they have been having and we are saying through NHI all our people must have equality of healthcare in our country and I know it drives fear into the hearts of many and believe you me we are going to have equality whether people like it or not that’s what we are going to have,” says Ramaphosa.

Universal access

The objective of the NHI Bill is to provide universal access to quality healthcare for all South Africans, rich or poor, and legal long-term residents. But questions remain about how it will be funded and how it will work.

At the same time, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the anticipated signing, saying it is time the country moved from the apartheid legacy of unequal healthcare access.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) wants to know why Ramaphosa is pushing ahead with signing the contentious National Health Insurance Bill, despite concerns over it.

The business lobby group and other stakeholders believe the bill is not ready to become law in its current form.

‘Damaging’

BUSA says the current bill will be damaging to the country’s healthcare sector, to the economy more broadly and to investor confidence.

“As a 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 the sense that as a country we 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,” says BUSA’s Khulekani Mathe.

Video: NHI Bill – ‘In its current form is unworkable as SA is resource-constrained’: Khulekani Mathe

Business Leadership South Africa warns that the move will be destructive for many stakeholders and relationships, at a time when partnerships between government and business are critical to build confidence globally, that South Africa is an investment destination.

It says the law will never work, simply because there is no capacity to implement it, and as soon as it is signed, it will be embroiled in litigation on several fronts, including on its constitutionality.

Momentum Health Solutions says to create and implement a national health system, current constraints must be taken into consideration.

Video: NHI Bill – Board of Healthcare Funders responds to imminent signing of the bill: Charlton Murove

The Board of Healthcare Funders says it is unfortunate that the bill will be signed in its current form. The board says it is particularly concerned about section 33 of the bill, which says that medical schemes will not be able to cover or pay for any health service offered by the NHI.

Despite growing criticism, Cosatu says this is a good way to equalise healthcare in the country. The signing ceremony will take place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria at 2pm on Wednesday.

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