South Africa

Please don’t cancel your medical aid because of NHI – Health Minister

Joe Phaahla

Health Minister Joe Phaahla has urged South Africans not to cancel their medical aid as the government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme will take years to fully implement. 

Phaahla’s comments came after President Ramaphosa signed the NHI into law on Wednesday, 15 May, marking an end to a decades-long process. 

The scheme aims to transform South Africa’s healthcare system, achieve universal coverage for health services, and, through this, overcome critical socio-economic imbalances and inequities of the past. 

The legislation provides a framework for providing universal care through a state-run fund and will ban the private sector from financing treatment covered under the plan. 

While the government has promised that signing the NHI into law will result in universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, this ambition is far from reality. 

According to the NHI Act, it will take around 10 to 15 years for the scheme to be fully implemented, and it is clear that even then, there will be room for private medical aid to cover certain procedures. 

This expectation also does not account for the fact that the NHI will most likely be tied up in South Africa’s courts for years, with business groups and medical organisations threatening to challenge it. 

“On medical aids, I have seen some hilarious statements that I hope were just jokes, saying that people were going to cancel their medical aids and saying the 30th of May would be their last deduction,” Phaahla said. 

“We want to say to all South Africans. This is a process that when it is ready, you will be informed, and medical aid providers will be informed.”

“Medical aid schemes are still there. So keep your medical aid. Everything will be transparent. the day when the NHI becomes a reality, the Ministry will announce it.”

“Please, don’t throw away your medical aid schemes and stop your debit order,” Phaahla pleaded. 

Bankmed CEO Teddy Mosomothane

Phaahla’s comments align with those from private medical aid groups, who have also called on their clients to not cancel their schemes. 

Bankmed CEO Teddy Mosomothane urged clients in an email not to panic over the signing of the NHI into law. 

Mosomothane outlined several reasons why South Africans should not panic about the NHI, explaining why it is unlikely to affect medical aid providers for years to come. 

Chief among these reasons is the likelihood the NHI Act will be challenged in court, with Bankmed saying it will take the government on through the Health Funders Association. 

Mosomothane’s reasons not to worry about the NHI are listed below –

  • As already indicated above, the NHI Act, in its current form, will be legally challenged;
  • It will take a very long time (and estimates suggest 10 to 15 years) before NHI is “fully implemented”.The NHI Act suggests that is the point at which medical schemes will not be able to provide cover for services that are paid for by NHI;
  • The unfortunate financial constraints that our country faces currently make it impossible for the implementation of NHI to present any threat to the continued existence of medical schemes for the foreseeable future;
  • Even when NHI is fully implemented based on the NHI Act as it is now, medical schemes will be allowed to exist but confined to what is not covered by NHI. It is currently not clear what will be covered by NHI, but the financial constraints referred to above, and the implications of such NHI cover having to be available for the whole population in the country, leaves substantial room for the role of medical schemes; 
  • Even the Minister of Health himself, Dr Joe Phaahla, at the signing of the Bill ceremony, is quoted as saying, “Please don’t cancel your medical aid”.

“We cannot overemphasise our advice to you to NOT panic. This important matter is receiving the required attention,” Mosomothane said. 

“We reiterate our assurance that staying close to this matter is important to us and that our efforts are strongly informed by your interests specifically and the interests of South Africans in general.”


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