Health committee seeks legal advice on NHI

Staff Writer | Aug 17, 2019
The chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has said that before examining the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, the committee should seek a ‘presentation’ on the constitutionality of the draft law from the State Attorney.

Dhlomo said this was necessary to ‘address the concerns raised by various people, including those who think they will find space to challenge the constitutionality of the NHI Bill’.

He said: ‘This should be done speedily, so that as we start with the NHI Bill we can set aside concerns and know the contribution of legal experts in the matter. The committee does not want anything untoward to delay public participation on the Bill. However, we still want to address concerns, hence the importance of starting with the State Attorney.’

The Democratic Alliance (DA) claimed credit for this cautionary step, with DA Shadow Minister of Health Siviwe Gwarube saying that ‘the public have serious concerns about the constitutionality of this Bill and the ramifications it would pose to our already ailing economy’.

She said the NHI would ‘disempower provinces and centralise healthcare in national government – effectively creating another state-owned entity’.

‘The Constitution and the National Healthcare Act have purposefully divided legislative powers between the two spheres of government in order to ensure checks and balances.’

Rejecting African National Congress criticism of her party, she said the DA ‘unequivocally supports universal healthcare’ but would ‘not support a fundamentally problematic piece of legislation which will destroy the health sector and push the economy over the precipice’.

The IRR has urged South Africans ‘to say “No” to the uncosted and unsustainable NHI proposal and find far better ways to improve universal health coverage’.

It recommends that ‘waste, fraud and inefficiency in the public health sector must be ended’ and that ‘low-cost medical schemes and health insurance policies should be encouraged, not restricted.’

The IRR has suggested that tax-funded health vouchers should be provided to low-income households so that they can also afford to join these schemes or buy these policies. ‘Medical schemes and health insurers will then have to compete for their custom, which will encourage innovation, promote efficiency, and help to hold down costs far better than a massive and corruption-prone NHI bureaucracy will ever do.’


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