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Parly moves ahead with NHI Bill public hearings despite concerns over funding

Treasury’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement document published this week paints a gloomy picture of the country’s economy and states NHI costs would balloon by R33 billion.

FILE: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Parliament is moving ahead with public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill despite Treasury warning universal health care has become unaffordable.

Treasury’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) document published this week paints a gloomy picture of the country’s economy and states NHI costs would balloon by R33 billion.

The document was published after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's MTBPS issued an updated cost estimate for NHI.

Originally, NHI costs were projected to increase public health spending from about 4% to 6% of GDP over 15 years.

But given the bleak fiscal outlook, the estimates to roll out NHI that were published in 2011 and 2017 are no longer affordable according to National Treasury.

The revised model estimates implementing NHI would require an additional R33 billion annually in about five years.

Democratic Alliance health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said it was concerning that Parliament was moving ahead with the bill despite public uncertainty and the massive costs.

“It is also just an incredible shock that we are continuing with the public hearing across the country where people are yet to understand how this bill will be funded and when Treasury is not on the same page as the Department of Health.”

Gwarube said hearings also showed how the public was not entirely convinced by the NHI Bill and more concerned about an inefficient public health care system.

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