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Talk of a National Health Insurance (NHI) has left many South Africans unsure of what it means for their medical futures; Profmed has joined the conversation, helping to make it more understandable.


South Africa (10 April 2024) — News headlines, buzzwords, and Economics boffins have been discussing the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill at a rate that has left many of us feeling a little confused. What do all these things mean, and how does the Bill affect everyday people, whether uncovered or paying for private medical aid? Profmed recently shared an extensive insight into their understanding of the NHI process and it helped us understand it too.

Like many private medical aid providers, Profmed has been keeping a watchful eye on the process since it was started in 2007 and has progressed to where we are today (you can read that full history here). Craig Comrie, the Principal Officer and Chief Executive of Profmed, has weighed in on the subject, adding that Profmed plans to continue engaging in the process as it moves through the various South African Government departments.

Engaging with these departments ensures that the uncovered public and the privately insured are both adequately provided for going forward.

“At Profmed, we are paying close attention to what politicians, funders and key stakeholders are sharing, while we continue to ensure that we safeguard the rights of our members balanced against the rights of uncovered South Africans who should all benefit from these reforms.”

During the 2024 State of the Nation Address, on the 8th of February, President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed the intent behind the new national health insurance, how it will be funded, and what concerns still need to be addressed as it draws closer.

“Both President Ramaphosa and the Department of Health (DoH) have clearly stated that the purpose of a national health insurance is to improve both the quality of healthcare and equal access for all South Africans,” 

“It is a strong, powerful intention that will improve lives. According to the DoH, national health insurance will provide better healthcare for everybody at a much lower cost, and that cost is going to be absorbed by the taxpayer. In fact, the DoH indicates that people shouldn’t be required to pay anything as they access health services.” adds Craig Comrie

There are several factors at play to have the NHI be a success. We have listed them below to help with understanding just how many factors need to be addressed before the NHI is a viable option for the South African population:

  • health system financing,
  • the health workforce,
  • access to medical products, vaccines and technologies,
  • and boosting health information systems.

Implementing these factors will take time and a great deal of investment. The President has shared that the plan is to incrementally implement these changes.

While the hope is great, there are complex challenges that still need to be addressed. For example, where will the money to fund this come from?

“The intent for a better healthcare system for all needs to be funded,”

“We have a burdened tax base that is shrinking; our economy hasn’t grown in the right way. We need to find alternatives in terms of how the universal health system is implemented. And so, it’s important to understand what all the different stakeholders in this space are saying.”

South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana indicated that a better solution may be to invest more in upgrading hospitals and medical infrastructure to make them more attractive to everyone.

That is why private medical schemes are watching this so closely. Comrie points out that medical schemes exist to look after their members’ interests. Profmed is commenting, engaging in influence, and, when necessary, will constitutionally challenge the Bill in terms of how it eventually gets implemented. And they are not alone in wanting to support their members.

It may feel overwhelming trying to see how it will all fit together or if it will be a success, but rest assured, the balance will be found, and solutions will meet the challenges head-on, whether it’s an entirely new system or just fixing the existing infrastructure.

To start the solutions-driven approach, Craig Comrie and his team have a list of concerns they are going forward with. These are the questions we could all be asking, with these in hand, solutions can be found:

  • How can South Africa fund a national health system when the country has such a low-income base and the economy is not growing?
  • How do we grow the doctor-to-person ratio in South Africa? Strategies to recruit doctors from other African countries haven’t worked in the past. We have to train and educate doctors in South Africa for South Africans.
  • What is the role of medical schemes in terms of a partner approach to achieving universal healthcare? A national healthcare system must cater to every South African, improving access to and the quality of healthcare services across the country.

There is time for all these discussions to take place. While breaking news headlines make it feel the change is imminent, the path forward is still open to collaboration between private and public stakeholders. Balance will be found and the South African public will be provided for.

“These are important discussions, but national health programmmes take decades to design and implement. We will continue to monitor and contribute to discussions, contributing towards a national health system that benefits all South Africans.” – Craig Comrie

Sources: Profmed
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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