Last week, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize released the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill that sets out to provide access to healthcare to all South Africans, regardless of their financial circumstances.
On Tuesday, Bongani Bingwa spoke to Wits University social security systems administration and management studies chair, Professor Alex Van Den Heever who said the NHI has no clear coherent public purpose and there was no fiscal space for the NHI.
The health minister joins Bingwa to give clarity on the bill.
Mkhize says the NHI-style system operates in many countries.
Most of the developed countries started this scheme when their economies were very poor. We have consulted a number of them and they say you cannot wait until your economy is better before you start because part of improving the economy is also improving health access to all the people.— Zweli Mkhize, Minister - Health
He says the government has funds earmarked for health services.
We need to pool all those resources so that the system is structured in such a way that those who are sick can be taken through to the level of care that they deserve, and not only get access to care because they can afford it.— Zweli Mkhize, Minister - Health
Mkhize acknowledges South Africa's economic challenges and says these only require government to amend the cost proposals of the NHI.
He says the figure of R256 billion arises from the estimated cost of the NHI proposal when it was first introduced in 2010.
But as we sit today, the private medical sector is spending about R200bn for only 15% of the population and the government is spending around the same amount. If we put the two together and distribute it in an equitable manner inside the system, it will help more people.— Zweli Mkhize, Minister - Health
The minister says just because there was inefficiency in the public medical sector in the past, it doesn't mean that the problem cannot be fixed.
The reality is that the country needs a much more equitable redistribution of resources inside the same system. The NHI as a structure will be open to public scrutiny.— Zweli Mkhize, Minister - Health
Listen below to the full interview: