NEWS & ANALYSIS

First phase of public participation on NHI complete – Committee

Chairperson reemphasises that numbers are not supreme in this process

Health Committee concludes first phase of public participation on NHI Bill

25 February 2020

The Portfolio Committee on Health has successfully concluded the first phase of public participation on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill. This phase included extensive public hearings in all the nine provinces of the country, with a minimum three public hearings per province.

The guiding principles that underpin the importance of this phase of the legislation-making process is to give life to the expression of a “people’s Parliament” that understands and incorporates varying views of a diverse society like South Africa. “The Constitution of South Africa’s section 59 (1) (a) and section 72 (1) (a) enjoin both Houses of Parliament to facilitate public involvement in the legislative and other processes of the National Assembly and its committees. With these public hearings we are confident that South Africans have been given ample opportunity to make their views heard and taken into consideration by the committee,” said Dr SibongiseniDhlomo, the Chairperson of the committee.

The committee is grateful to all South Africans, young and old, who participated in this process, and it assures all South Africans that their views will be considered when it deliberates on the final product.

Furthermore, the committee acknowledged that despite the varying views on the matter during the hearings, participants were generally well-behaved and tolerant of differing views. “We are confident that our process cannot be faulted and that a conducive environment was created to enable participants to share their views on the Bill,” Dr Dhlomo said.  

Regarding the content of the Bill, the majority of participants across the country pronounced their unwavering support for the Bill, especially because of the expected benefits that will enhance universal healthcare especially for the poor. But in most cases the support for the Bill was predicated on the need for the Department of Health to fix the current healthcare challenges that will ensure, if optimally utilised, an effective healthcare system. Fixing of these challenges include the hiring of more doctors and nurses, investment in infrastructure development and ensuring accountability at all levels of the healthcare sector.

Participants also raised the need for the release of the report of the pilot phase of the NHI and for the department to share as to what was the objective of the pilot phase and what were the lessons learnt there. 

At the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality participants emphasised the need for effective governance, as well as performance monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the benefits of NHI are felt by all across the country – and to ensure that the fund doesn’t follow the same route as other state-owned entities.

Despite a majority of people endorsing the Bill and calling for its immediate implementation, there were those that vehemently opposed the Bill primarily because of the ambiguity in relation to the funding model, dwindling revenue base and apprehension on the governance of the fund as a result of corruption.   

The committee reiterates its commitment to listening to all views presented during the public hearings. Furthermore, it reemphasises that numbers are not supreme in this process, but consideration will be exclusively made on what is of benefit to the people of South Africa in achieving a universal healthcare coverage.    

The committee will now engage stakeholders and organisations that made written submissions to it, and that will form the last phase of public participation on the Bill at National Assembly level. The committee is still to decide on when the second phase will commence and on modalities of this phase. Once a decision is made it will be communicated extensively.

Issued by Malatswa Molepo, Media Officer, Parliamentary Communication Services, 25 February 2020