Will S.Africa's National Health Insurance be a success? - CNBC Africa

Will S.Africa's National Health Insurance be a success?

Southern Africa

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Doctor's hand on stethoscope.

“We are quite advanced in finalising the policy and the paper. We had to make sure that we consulted and followed up all the inputs we got from the green paper. Many of the stakeholders will be able to see their inputs through that National Health Insurance system,” South Africa’s deputy minister of health Gwen Ramokgopa told CNBC Africa.

“It focuses on preventative care and health promotion, because at the rate at which we’re going, there is no health system in the world that can afford four epidemics in one. It is important as South Africans to remember that the National Health Insurance system is about health, wellness, and quality.”

South Africa’s medical costs are among the highest in the world, and the National Health Insurance (NHI) plan will be a progressive effort in making healthcare affordable and accessible to all.

Players in the country’s private healthcare sector, such as Discovery Health CEO Jonathan Broomberg, have however expressed concerns over the implications the NHI might have in for the industry.

“The devil will be in the detail. We’re all waiting very keenly to see what the white paper says. I think it’s almost inevitable in a country and in an economy like we have, that we will have a system in which the NHI builds out what we today think of as the public healthcare system,” he said.

“[The NHI] has to take care of the vast majority of the population and it’s going to be a work of many years to strengthen and improve outcomes quality of care.”

The national health insurance is expected to however take between 10 to 15 years to build a solid foundation on which South Africans can fully depend on. It will also take additional time to produce adequate basic health and medical care.

Broomberg added that the national insurance will however not deter South Africans from seeking private health and medical care.

Countries such as the United States, Australia, Northern and Western Europe still have roughly 30 per cent of their population using private healthcare services.

“I think it’s critical that everyone in the private sector and citizens work towards building the NHI. We can’t survive as a society unless it’s a success,” he said. 

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