MPs are still at odds over how to process the tens of thousands of submissions received in response to the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, nine months after the deadline they set for input closed. Business Day says the Bill is the first piece of enabling legislation for the government’s plan for universal health coverage, which aims to provide health services to the entire population free at the point of care.
The Bill was tabled in Parliament in August 2019, and Parliament called for written submissions in early September, with a 29 November deadline. MPs debated the extent to which an external service provider should get involved. The DA’s health spokesperson, Siviwe Gwarube, said it was important for the terms of reference to be clearly spelt out if an external service provider was appointed. “We won’t agree if they encroach on what we are meant to do,” she said.
MPs grappled with whether to process all the written submissions before considering oral presentations, or run the two processes concurrently. They were also at odds over how much time to allocate to presenters.
Several opposition MPs, including Gwarube and the FF Plus’ Philip van Staden, expressed concern about the risk of legal challenge if Parliament did not manage the public participation process carefully. None of the issues were resolved, and MPs agreed to consult their political parties before taking the matter further, says the report.
Despite only 3% of approximately 34,000 hand-delivered submissions on the National Health Insurance Bill having been processed (with the same number of e-mail submissions apparently yet to be tackled), the National Assembly’s Health Committee may nevertheless decide to hold virtual parliamentary public hearings next month.
Pam Saxby, writing for Legalbrief Policy Watch says this is noting that members are considering the possibility of appointing an external service provider to assist with the collation process.
The mammoth task ahead was the focus of the meeting, when it emerged that 226 e-mail submissions have been found to be “substantive”. Interestingly, Saxby says, most hand-delivered input supports the Bill, while most received by e-mail does not. It is not clear how these conclusions were reached given the number of submissions still waiting to be processed.
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