South Africa

Big NHI lie

Professor Alex van den Heever said the government’s green and white papers on National Health Insurance (NHI) are littered with falsehoods.

“When you analyse the analytical work in the government’s NHI green and white papers, they contain many basic untruths,” he said.

“They refer to national health insurance systems in countries which have no national health insurance.”

Examples include South American countries like Brazil and Mexico, mentioned in these papers, which have mixed health systems.

Other countries mentioned, like Japan and Canada, have federally funded and subsidised state systems.

“The government defined every single system as national health insurance and pretended that it is what they are doing,” Van den Heever said.

“There is nothing like that they are proposing for South Africa in any developing country in the world.”

He added that many people who are driving the implementation of NHI in South Africa are not qualified to comment and be involved in health system reform.

“You have to build health systems with real technical input and requirements. It is an engineering exercise, not a superficial desktop exercise,” he said.

Van den Heever said the NHI Bill in its current form could not be implemented and that there is no way to fund the incredibly expensive plan.

“Discussions about increasing taxes and introducing a new payroll tax indicate that they don’t know how it will be funded,” he said.

“They are an incredibly naïve set of fiscal proposals that you cannot even consider implementing,” he said.

“When you look at the proposals from the financial side, they are incoherent from a public finance perspective,” he said.

There is no possible way that the finance minister will consider introducing them because it will be suicidal for the government.

Alex van den Heever
Professor Alex van den Heever

Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s big NHI blunder

Van den Heever’s comments echo Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach’s view that Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s claim that no significant private medical insurance exists in the United Kingdom is false.

Phaahla recently sang the praises of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as a “jewel which must be protected.”

During a National Health Insurance Bill debate, he told Parliament that “no significant private medical Insurance exists in the United Kingdom”.

“One of the big three private hospital groups making billions of profits here in South Africa could not survive in the UK,” he claimed.

Noach said Discovery runs a successful private medical insurer in the United Kingdom, Vitality Health Insurance, which is the third largest in the market.

“Pre-Covid, between 12% and 13% of the population in the United Kingdom had private medical insurance,” Noach said. “Today, it is 22%.”

Statista’s Consumer Insights confirmed Noach’s claims, saying 22% of UK adults now have private healthcare, which has nearly doubled since 2019.

The Guardian reported that a growing number of Britons are paying for private medical treatment in a shift that could undermine the NHS and create a two-tier health system.

Last year, Solidarity said that, in 2020, only about 17 out of every 100 South Africans had medical insurance. It means that the UK and South Africa have similar medical insurance levels.

Private healthcare and private medical insurance in the United Kingdom are clearly becoming increasingly popular.

It is a far cry from Phaahla’s claim that “no significant private medical insurance exists in the United Kingdom”.


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