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Time to take health plan to heart

17 March 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Yadhana Jadoo
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Author: Yadhana Jadoo

Medical insurance providers are simply not taking the implementation of South Africa’s National Health Insurance (NHI) plan seriously, said experts.

"The NHI sounds very detrimental to the existing private providers, but why we don’t hear a much strong voice of opposition from them? One reason is that many are quite pessimistic about the realisation of this promise,” said Dr Allen Lien, a former health representative on NHI to Africa.

Lien has previously offered his skills to South Africa on NHI, following the implementation of the plan in Taiwan, his home country.

His remarks follow the mention of the NHI in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget speech yesterday.

Gordhan had provided no "new” information on the plan and said the financing paper by the National Treasury would be tabled in Cabinet "shortly”.

"People say the issue of NHI is over-politicised, but using the history of the implementation of Taiwan’s NHI in 1995, the political determination was the prerequisite requirement of it,” said Lien.

Providers, secondly, knew "that when everyone is covered by NHI”, the pool of insured will be enlarged, too, "so they will get a bigger influx of patients as a result”.

Tax law expert Dale Cridlan, director at Norton Rose Fulbright, said the White Paper had been expected for some time and the NHI plan should become clearer once the Treasury released the funding paper.

"The contents of the paper will be important in ascertaining the mechanics and funding instruments which will be used to support the NHI.”

Gordhan said the NHI depended on "two pillars”. Improvements have to be made in public sector health delivery, and the high cost of private healthcare has to be reduced.”

However health economist Professor Alex van den Heever, said "the government have made no proposals date on either of these areas”.

"It provides no confidence that any changes that would make a positive difference to the system are on the cards,” he said.

This article first appeared on citizen.co.za.


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