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    Affinity Health expresses strong support for National Health Insurance Bill

    Health cover provider, Affinity Health, expressed its support for the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, highlighting its commitment to collaborating with the government to implement a balanced health coverage system.
    Source: Pexels

    Murray Hewlett, chief executive officer of Affinity Health, praised the landmark legislation as a critical step towards universal health coverage (UHC), which ensures equitable access to quality healthcare for all South Africans, irrespective of socio-economic status.

    "Everyone, irrespective of their identity or location, is entitled to healthcare. The right to health is anchored in our Constitution under Section 27, which guarantees every individual the right to access healthcare services, including reproductive health services. Despite these provisions, the realisation of the right to healthcare remains uneven across South Africa," says Hewlett.

    "The NHI Bill represents a monumental shift in our healthcare landscape. It addresses longstanding disparities and aims to improve the overall quality of healthcare while reducing the burden on our public health facilities. We are fully committed to supporting this transformation and ensuring the sustainability and effectiveness of both public and private health systems."

  • Understanding the NHI Bill: South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has committed to overhauling South Africa's dual health system, where the majority of the population relies on a publicly funded sector that is overcrowded and dilapidated, while others have access to superior treatment via private insurance.

    The NHI Bill, which has been the subject of considerable debate, seeks to establish the NHI Fund as a cornerstone of a unified health system that guarantees universal health coverage for all.

    "There is still a lot of misunderstanding around what this Bill means," adds Hewlett. "Simply put, the Bill aims to establish a public fund to ensure universal access, and regulate the fees that private doctors can charge. This means that all South Africans will have access to essential healthcare services without worrying about the cost of care."

  • The role of medical schemes in the NHI framework: A significant aspect of the NHI Bill is the future role of private healthcare and medical schemes once the system is fully implemented. The Bill proposes that medical schemes will not cover services that the NHI funds.

    Currently, the public health sector, serving 84% of the population, is underfunded and overburdened, leading to sub-standard service levels.

    Conversely, the private sector, catering to 14% of the population, is marked by escalating costs and service over-utilisation without corresponding health outcome improvements.

    NHI seeks to reform both sectors to elevate the quality of health services, reduce the disease burden, and provide financial risk protection by pooling funds into a single entity, thus enhancing service quality and health outcomes.

  • Economic considerations and the funding of NHI: The NHI's financial implications are profound, with initial estimates suggesting substantial fiscal requirements. The NHI Bill specifies that the scheme's financing - though not yet officially priced, is estimated to require over R700bn annually - will be sourced from tax revenues.
  • Coverage under the NHI fund: The NHI fund will cover services for all South African citizens, permanent residents, refugees, inmates, and certain foreign nationals. Asylum seekers and illegal foreigners will have access to emergency medical services and treatment for notifiable conditions. All children, regardless of nationality, will be covered for all benefits the fund provides.
  • Strengthening healthcare infrastructure: Affinity Health recognises the critical need for improved healthcare infrastructure to support the effective roll-out of the NHI. This includes investing in state-of-the-art facilities, adopting innovative healthcare technologies, and ensuring that healthcare professionals are well-supported and remunerated.
  • "Our vision aligns with a future where public and private sectors collaborate more closely to deliver high-quality healthcare services," adds Hewlett.

    "We believe that enhancing infrastructure and professional support underpins the success of any healthcare reform."

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