Monday, 17 June, 2024
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WHO warns of SA’s health sector collapse if NHI derailed

South Africa needs to embrace universal healthcare if it hopes to change the trajectory of its healthcare system, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) co-ordinator for health financing policy has warned.

Speaking at at a joint event between the WHO and the national Department of Health to commemorate International Universal Health Coverage Day in Gauteng this week, Joe Kutzen said South Africans were among the biggest purchasers of voluntary health insurance in the world, which has the potential to derail the public healthcare system.

Around 15% of South Africans are covered by voluntary healthcare insurance – but this group accounts for more than 40% of the spending on healthcare, he said, adding, that if this doesn’t change soon, the country could find itself trapped in an expensive healthcare system characterised by inefficiencies and bogged down with administrative costs.

Kutzen referenced the US, which had 4% of the world’s population but accounted for more than 43% of the global health expenditure. Instead of buying more days in the hospital, visits to doctors or long-term care, these funds were supporting insurance overheads and a burgeoning number of administrative posts, he said

He pointed out that the amount South Africans spent on private healthcare had a significant impact on the entire healthcare system, driving up prices and influencing the availability of resources, reports News24.

The government was contributing to the problem by subsidising private medical aid schemes for civil servants.

“If the direction of the healthcare system doesn’t change, South Africa could be in trouble,” he said.

Health Minster Joe Phaahla echoed Kutzin’s sentiments, adding that the top private healthcare companies were wealthier than many mining, manufacturing and agriculture companies.

Phaahla said the NHI Bill was expected to go to the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces next year, now that the “legal framework is almost complete”.

However, he said he anticipated “legal pushback” in the form of “a slew of litigation” from private healthcare companies with “very deep pockets” once the Bill was passed.

Health Department deputy director-general Nicholas Crisp said more than half of South Africa’s healthcare spending took place in the private sector. However, the private sector serves only between 15 and 20% of the population.

He added that the government spent R12bn less than the private sector in the 2021-22 financial year, and more than R550bn is spent on healthcare in South Africa annually.

Crisp said if the government redirected funds that were being spent on civil servant medical aid schemes or saved what was being awarded as tax credits to medical scheme members, there would be enough money in the system to fund the NHI.


News24 article – SA's healthcare sector faces collapse if govt fails to implement NHI, warns WHO expert (Restricted access)


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NHI Bill delayed


Rush to push through NHI Bill before ANC conference – but key questions still unanswered


Government dodges issue of NHI funding model – DA


Health ombud warns that worsening state health facilities won’t make NHI grade







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