Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize

The National Health Insurance Bill has been approved by Cabinet and the details will be announced this morning by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize at a media conference ahead of his budget vote speech in Parliament later today.

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has told the media that the Bill incorporates the inputs submitted on the draft Bill during the three-year consultation period from June to September last year but refrained from providing details. He, however, emphasized that the Bill will be subjected to another rigorous Parliamentary process before it is signed into law. The Bill will have to be considered by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, and go through public consultation before it can be implemented.

Last year, there was a public outcry after a letter from Treasury revealed that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s health adviser, Dr Olive Shisana tried to make unilateral changes to the draft. A revised version was rejected by Parliament at the end of last year but reconsidered in January this year.

In a statement late last night, the DA called the approval of the NHI Bill in its current from “premature, irresponsible and simply disastrous”.

DA shadow Minister of Health, Siviwe Gwarube says his party is aware that neither the previous Health Minister nor the current one, Dr Zweli Mkhize, have engaged the provinces about the Bill. He added that the matter has not been discussed at the National Health Council and provincial departments have not been engaged about the additional responsibilities that the implementation of the NHI in its current form will require from them.

“Every piece of legislation and policy proposal that has an impact on the health system needs to have input from the provinces and requires their unequivocal buy in. Provincial departments are the implementing agents and the interface of healthcare with our communities. The fact that cabinet has omitted this critical step is indicative of an ANC government pursuing an ideological win instead of improving healthcare for our people. It also demonstrates the ANC government’s insatiable desire for yet another State-Owned-Enterprise which will lend itself to mass corruption,” Gwarube said.

He noted that although South Africa needs universal healthcare, quality healthcare won’t become a reality if the Bill in its current form is implemented as it will destroy the economy and the health system.