NHI now has a woolly number, but what is the cost?
19 July 2019
After years of thumb-sucking, evasive behaviour and guestimates by people in government and other sectors of society, the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport recently reported that Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, indicated that government will spend an additional R30 billion per year in future to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) system.
Treasury recently gave startling facts to members of parliament about the state of affairs at the Department of Health. Some R600 million earmarked for NHI groundwork was not spent in the fourth quarter of last year. The first question that needs answering is how they intend to spend an additional R30 billion if they cannot even spend a fraction of this amount.
According to Mkhize, the money will be spent on prenatal care, chronic medicines and (pegged) tariffs for doctors who are obliged to service a certain number of people in a geographical area. At least now we have a vague idea of what the money will be spent on, even though we still don’t know what the apportionment will look like or if the annual R30 billion is correct and not just thumb-sucked.
The rub now lies in how and why this money will be spent, and clues of this may be found in what Mkhize did not say. Fixing up and building hospitals and buying new equipment weren’t even on his list, or are deemed not important enough for the Minister to mention. To be honest, it will take R30 billion and a whole lot more to even approximate the completion of this task.