Baseless attacks on NHI rejected – COSATU

Federation says these so-called organisations have no interest in policies that seek to address inequality crises

COSATU rejects and denounces the baseless attacks on the National Health Insurance by funded lobbyists

4 July 2018

The Congress of South African Trade Unions denounces and rejects the specious and baseless attacks directed at the National Health Insurance by some funded lobbyists , who are hell-bent of maintaining the status quo. Since the gazetting of the NHI bill on the 21st of June 2018, some neoliberal economists and political parties, to name a few have launched a scathing attack on the bill as well as the NHI policy.

This is not surprising because we know that these so called organisations have no interest in policies that seek to address South Africa’s inequality crises and the fulfilment of section 27 of the constitution ,as well as article 12 of the United Nations Covenant on Economic, social and cultural Rights of 1966, which provides for the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The National Health Insurance represents a policy shift that necessitates a mass reorganisation of the current health system. This mass reorganisation affects both the public and private sector in order to redress the inequality in the current provision of health care with approximately 4.4% of GDP in health expenditure benefiting only 16 % of the population and 4.1% of GDP benefiting the remaining 84% of the population, who are predominantly black victims of an evil Apartheid regime. There is a tinge of racism that fuels the criticism of NHI because the beneficiaries of apartheid separate development want to protect their inherited privileges.

It is not surprising that the notion of a more equitable distribution is threatening to the private sector and its supporters. Its profitability thrives on the current inequalities and public sector inefficiencies. COSATU calls on all of its members and like minded individuals and civil society partners to rally behind and defend the NHI policy and any legislative enabling reforms that bring us a step closer to the realisation of Universal Health Coverage.

COSATU vehemently rejects the ridiculous pronouncement by the daily maverick that South Africa already has Universal access to health. Life Esidimeni in the Gauteng Department of Health and the oncology crises in Kwa-Zulu Natal are testament to the lack of universal health coverage for the poorest of the poor in South Africa. Universal Health coverage in South Africa is a benefit that only the rich enjoy.

The NHI policy is separate from the Minister of Health. Many distracters of the NHI have formed an unhealthy link between the NHI policy and the Minister of Health with some critiquing the Minister’s performance using the policy. It’s as though any shortcoming as a result of the Minister and the NHI is automatically a shortcoming of the NHI policy.

COSATU wants to clarify that Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is not the NHI, the NHI will remain a policy of government with or without him as a Minister of health and therefore we cannot continue to bond any policy of government for that matter with one particular person. NHI is not only bigger than one Minister but it is also bigger than one administration and ultimately must out live us all in order to benefit generations to come.

The NHI’s distracters religiously point to the pre-concluded unaffordability of the NHI as a deterrent for implementation; the NHI bill provides the enabling legislative reform to establish the NHI fund which is essential in the financing of health benefits for the end user.

COSATU welcomes the release of the NHI bill; the bill is the first piece of legislation that brings South Africa closer to the realisation of universal health coverage through the establishment of a NHI fund. The NHI bill will establish a national insurance fund and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures; to provide a framework for the active purchasing of health care services by the fund on behalf of users; to create mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the fund to meet the health needs of users; to preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the fund and its users.

The NHI fund amongst other objectives will primarily take all the reasonably necessary steps to achieve the objectives as set out in the National Health Act and achieve the attainment of universal health coverage as contemplated in Section 4 of the NHI Bill.

The private sector creates a market-driven private health care system based on avoiding the sick: medical schemes and private providers compete not so much by increasing quality and lowering costs, but by avoiding unprofitable patients and shifting costs back to patients or to the under-funded, under-resourced public health system.

To achieve a universal, comprehensive, free national healthcare system, founded on the primary healthcare approach, requires a well-funded and well resourced funded public health system.

At the moment there are shocking inequalities and problems in our healthcare system. While our country spends a lot of money on healthcare, compared to many other countries, only a few (about 8 million) have access to good quality healthcare. COSATU will fight to ensure that the redistribution of resources through the NHI favours the working class. We will also pushback against the vultures that want to continue to feast on the carcases of our poor and sick people.

COSATU calls on government not to be distracted by some funded economists and commentators, who are paid to drive the private-sector agenda by saying the NHI won’t be affordable. We are fully behind the NHI and we will not allow these funded lobbyists to distract from the goal of transforming our health system.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 4 July 2018