South Africa

NHI will hurt South Africans for decades to come

The government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme will hurt South Africans and undermine efforts to implement universal health coverage in the country. 

This is feedback from Bankmed CEO Teddy Mosomothane, who wrote in an email sent to clients that the medical aid provider expected the NHI to be signed into law and is not concerned about it. 

“The bottom line is: There is no need to panic about the NHI Bill having been signed into law,” Mosomothane said. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Bill into law on Wednesday, 15 May 2024, promising to transform healthcare in South Africa and banning the private sector from funding care covered by the scheme. 

Mosomothane said this was very disappointing but expected, as the government had repeatedly dismissed feedback from academics, medical groups, and civil society organisations. 

“What makes this rather very unfortunate is the fact that the stakeholders who were opposed to the Bill are generally very much in support of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as the overarching objective, and believe that collaboration with the government could achieve this.”

“In our view, the NHI Act in its current form, which imposes a limitation on the role of medical schemes, undermines UHC and will be to the detriment of the population of South Africa.”

The opportunity to collaborate, which would ensure an inclusive and sustainable healthcare solution, was not embraced by the signing of the Bill, Mosomothane said. 

He also said the medical aid provider would challenge the Act in court on constitutional grounds alongside other companies in the Health Funders Association. 

Bankmed CEO Teddy Mosomothane

Mosomothane’s comments echo those of Netcare CEO Richard Friedland following the private hospital group’s results this week.

“There is no panic whatsoever,” Friedland said when asked if the company had any fears about the NHI. 

Friedland said that despite the Act’s aims, it would likely have the opposite effect of its stated goals. 

“The unfortunate aspect is that it will further delay the implementation of something that is critical for us in South Africa.”

Netcare, in its results, outlined that it expects the number of people using its facilities to increase, even if at lower margins.

“Since our inception as Netcare, we have always recognised the significant inequity in the delivery and access to healthcare in South Africa.”

“We fully embrace the concept of universal healthcare. The big question is how do we achieve that,” he explained. 

Netcare, along with other private medical groups, academics, and civil society organisations, has provided extensive feedback to the government about implementing the NHI. 

“Unfortunately, most of that has been ignored, and we think that is a missed opportunity as we think there are fundamental flaws here and have no doubt that many will challenge this legally.”