The government’s proposed deadline for establishing the National Health Insurance (NHI) fund is too short, the Finance and Fiscal Commission (FCC) has warned Parliament, Business Day report.
The fund is a central pillar of the government’s plans for achieving universal health coverage, which promises to provide patients with care that is free at the point of service. The mechanism and timeline for implementing the fund is set out in the NHI Bill, which is currently being considered by parliament. It proposes that the fund be fully operational by 2026.
“The 2026 timeline is too short a target to complete all the necessary steps before the fund is established,” FFC researcher Eddie Rakabe told Parliament’s portfolio committee on health
The FFC is an independent advisory body, which the state is required by law to consult on the revenue that flows to the different spheres of government.
Rakabe set out the hurdles to be overcome, which include establishing administrative capacity; designing benefits and payment mechanisms; and dealing with the politically sensitive issue of how functions and funds currently allocated to provincial health departments are shifted.
Parliament has extended the public comment period for the NHI Bill, after receiving requests for more time from numerous stakeholders, reports Business Day. The first piece enabling legislation for NHI was tabled in parliament on 8 August. Parliament called for written submissions in early September, and set an initial deadline of 11 October, which it has now extended until 29 November.
The chair of parliament’s portfolio committee on health Sibongiseni Dhlomo said stakeholders had proposed mid-November as the closing date for written submission, but the committee had decided to extend the time by a further fortnight. There will be no further deadline extensions, he said in a statement. The new deadline for written submissions will not affect the committee’s programme for public hearings, which are due to begin in Mpumalanga on October 25, he said.
A wide range of organisations asked for a deadline extension, including Business Unity SA (Busa), the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).Business Day report Business Day report