The National Assembly (NA) of South Africa has officially passed the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which seeks universal health coverage for all citizens.
The latest decision comes after the NHI bill was tabled in the NA on 12 June.
According to a report on Reuters, a total of 205 votes were in favour and 125 votes were against the bill in the parliament’s lower NA.
It will be now sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent and to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.
The health insurance bill is planned to be implemented in multiple stages and may cost the exchequer billions of dollars.
It also involves setting up a single pool of NHI funding that can be used for purchasing healthcare services for all the users registered under it, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
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However, concerns are being raised that this bill result in widespread corruption and weaken the country’s economy that struggles to finance basic services.
However, the government claimed that the proposed bill will develop certain mechanisms for efficient utilisation of the fund’s available resources to address the healthcare requirements of the people while prohibiting any “unethical and unlawful” practices.
A BusinessTech report said this fund will draw money from surcharges on personal income tax, payroll taxes, and general tax revenue and by reallocating funds for tax credits, which are currently being given to private insurers.
The report quoted South Africa Health Minister Joe Phaahla as saying: “We accept that the NHI will not be the silver bullet that will fix all our health problems but it is the necessary foundation to build on for a progressive improvement of access with quality and equity.”
The bill was first introduced to the Portfolio Committee on Health and tabled in parliament in August 2019.