With public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill set to begin in October, the chair of the portfolio committee on health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has written to all parties represented in the National Assembly. News24 reports that the communication was to ensure all parties informed their constituencies of the hearings.
The NHI Bill seeks to achieve quality universal health care in South Africa, as well as to establish a National Health Insurance Fund, the statement said. Also, the Bill sets out the powers, function and governance structures of the fund and provides a framework for the purchase of healthcare services on behalf of users.
Media reports of plans to hold provincial public hearings this year on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill appear to overlook the nuances of the thinking behind this process. Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch writes that a Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) sound recording of a meeting last Thursday at which Dhlomo announced what is envisaged confirms, among other things, that several stakeholders have already approached the committee for more time to prepare detailed written submissions and, subsequently, to present their views during parliamentary hearings. These stakeholders have apparently been informed, in writing, that their requests are being considered.
Saxby writes that given the importance of allowing members enough time to study these submissions and others already received, according to Dhlomo it seems likely that parliamentary hearings will only take place next year – possibly also allowing more preparation time for those requiring it.
The public hearings would start in Mpumalanga from 25-28 October. Thereafter, the committee would move to the Northern Cape for hearings from 1-4 November, reports Engineering News. Information about public hearings in other provinces would be communicated timeously before they began.
The report says the public engagement process would also take place on weekends to accommodate people unavailable during the week. Venues, days, and times would be communicated closer to the start of the hearings.
“I urge all people to read the pamphlets distributed by the department of health so that they can educate themselves about how the NHI will benefit all South Africans. The information is critical in order to assist the committee to contribute to the Bill,” Dhlomo said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is at loggerheads with the health committee over the process to follow in the public hearings, says a Sunday Tribune report. The dispute is over the 70,000 written submissions made to the official opposition on the NHI Bill. Dlomo said they might be held up in Parliament while looking at the 70,000 submissions before going out on public hearings.
The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said 70,000 people had objected to the NHI. “This shows how strongly citizens object to the plan that will ultimately cripple the health system and further burden us with even more taxes,” said Gawrube. She said the ANC wanted to bulldoze the NHI through.
Dlomo said they needed to conduct public hearings before they could look at the submissions. “We will have to go to the public hearings. We can’t, before we go, look at thousands of submissions that are here,” said Dlomo.
News24 report Legalbrief Policy Watch report Engineering News report Sunday Tribune report (subscription needed)