SA should nationalise medical funds’ reserves, says health professions chief

Staff Writer | Aug 13, 2019
The reserves of South Africa’s medical aid funds should be expropriated to support the government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, according Dr Tebogo Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Dr Letlape said using medical aid fund reserves in this way would provide starting capital for the controversial NHI scheme, and should be done without apology.

His sentiments were contained in a report in Rapport newspaper.

The NHI, he argued, would need to be based on the principle of social solidarity, and the existence of different systems (state and private funds) was inimical to this.

Dr Letlape has long been critical of private medical aids, having referred to the dualistic healthcare system as ‘a crime against humanity’.

At the end of 2017, the Council for Medical Schemes estimated the reserves held by funds at over R63 billion. The NHI is expected to cost some R256 billion to implement by 2022 (revised estimates are being prepared). It is unclear how this will be funded, but the planners seem to envisage redirecting existing medical scheme contributions to a state fund, combined with various tax increases.

The IRR has described the NHI proposal as ‘uncosted and unsustainable’, and has argued that South Africa should rather focus on better managing the existing public health sector by ridding it of waste, fraud and inefficiency, and expanding access to the country’s excellent private healthcare system.


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