Healthcare is not a commodity, says BHF - CNBC Africa

Healthcare is not a commodity, says BHF

Southern Africa

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The Competition Commission launched an inquiry into South Africa’s private healthcare sector due to high costs. PHOTOS: Getty Images

“[The healthcare sector inquiry] is because of our engagement as Board of Healthcare Funders with the minister of health and other parties, indicating that we’re concerned about the status of healthcare especially in the private sector in South Africa,” Humphrey Zokufa, managing director of the board of healthcare funders of South Africa (BHF), told CNBC Africa.

“The projections don’t show sustainability and liability going forward. Therefore the 8.5 million lives who are pocketed in about 92 medical schemes are threatened by this.”

In January this year, the Competition Commission launched a market inquiry into South Africa’s private healthcare following concerns about high pricing.

(READ MORE: High costs in S.Africa healthcare industry under scrutiny)

Zokufa added that while the Competition Commission might find one of the problem cogs in the healthcare sector’s wheels, and in the event of that come up with solutions, there is still a chance that the issues within the system will still continue. The Board of Healthcare Funders nevertheless welcomes the Commission inquiry.

The Competition Commission investigates, manages and presides over business practices in the country to maintain fairness and efficacy.  

“The status of healthcare the private sector is not caused by non-competition, and I don’t think even if there was competition, things would be better. At the core of it is that you cannot float healthcare as a market commodity, where now there’s a free market system and people charge as much as they can,” he explained.

“In one way or the other, you have to intervene and protect a vulnerable medical scheme member or a vulnerable citizen when it comes to that. It’s not as easy as feeling confident to buy any other commodity in any environment and then you make all the decisions.”

(WATCH VIDEO: Healthcare strategy in developing economies)

Accessing healthcare, according to Zokufa, should be when one is at their weakest, and in the end putting one’s life in the hands of a third party because of a lack of other viable options available. Market forces should therefore not play a role in the saving and sustaining of lives.

“To date, market forces in the private healthcare sector have led to what we have today, which has to be solved, and an intervention here has to come from government. It can’t come from BHF, it can’t come from the healthcare providers who are operative in this space, it can’t come from the ordinary South African citizen,” said Zokufa.

“Everybody else here is powerless except the minister of health, who gets those powers from Section 27 of the constitution. What he as to do is just to carry it out. That sections says when it comes to healthcare, government must make sure that healthcare is affordable and accessible to the people of South Africa. It goes on to say [that] if that’s not the case, then government must introduce measures to correct that, including legislative measures.”