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The national government has initiated the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI), which will see many citizens, working and non-working, receiving adequate healthcare as per the obligation of section 27 of the Constitution, which is the right to basic healthcare for all South Africans. The Medical Aid Scheme sector has been criticized for high medical aid rates which the majority of South African citizens cannot afford. However, the narrative of inequality in healthcare might be yesterday’s news as the introduction of the NHI seeks to redress these inequalities and improve access to healthcare.

What does the implementation of the NHI mean for society?

The NHI bill is currently in circulation for amendment until end of November 2019 where citizens can contribute their opinions in public gatherings held by the government. Nonetheless, this will not change the fact that those who will bear the financial responsibility of the bill are citizens who contribute towards the revenue of the country – the taxpayers. The deadline for the implementation of this insurance has been set to 2026. It is predicted that the government will collect over R400 billion in tax revenue per year, meaning that citizens will no longer be obliged to pay for private medical aid but can divert their payments to the health bill according to their income. Though the latter might see an increase in taxes for individuals, the reality is that the bill aims to align those who are marginalized in the country and ensure that they receive adequate access to healthcare and best doctors in state-of-the art health facilities, which would have been previously used by private or medical aid payers only.

Who qualifies for the NHI?

In 2022, the bill will be able to outline who is covered; the amount to be deducted in accordance to the tax bracket and what medical conditions will be covered. The NHI will not cover all medical conditions hence people might need to take additional medical aid covers for specific conditions. 

What more should you know about the NHI?

The NHI bill is a great means of redress and advantage for the majority of citizens who do not have access to quality healthcare, it has, however received some backlash that may possibly impact the roll out in 2026. The first inadequacy is the compromise of the wellness of healthcare workers who are currently experiencing fatigue and depression caused by burdensome work due to lack of staff and resources. Increasing access to health facilities should therefore come with increased staff complements and resources at these facilities. Secondly, the health tax paid by citizens may be burdensome on those who are already employed but struggling financially due to the high cost of living and also exclude those who cannot afford contributions due to unemployment or because they are living on a minimum wage.

Information sources:

Compiled by:

Ntombi Gijana – Editorial Intern