3 An implementation plan will be developed and published once the bill is passed into law, the cabinet said after a fortnightly meeting in Cape Town.
4 The bill, once becoming law, will give effect to universal access to healthcare to all citizens in the country, irrespective of their socio-economic background, acting Cabinet spokesperson, Phumla Williams, said at a news conference.
5 This right is enshrined in the country’s constitution, said Williams.
6 The cabinet calls on members of the public to engage with the NHI bill, which is now before Parliament, said Williams.
7 The parliamentary process will afford the public another opportunity to engage with this bill, she added.
8 The bill, submitted to Parliament by Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize earlier this month, envisages a package of comprehensive health services for free at private and public health facilities.
9 This is as part of the government’s bid to provide more equitable access to quality healthcare.
10 It is said that the landmark bill would benefit all South African citizens, permanent residents, refugees, inmates, designated foreign nationals and all children.
11 Critics say the financing model of this bill will mean the imposition of a new tax on ordinary South Africans, who have already been squeezed dry by the government and cannot be subjected to yet another tax.
12 Several political parties and numerous bodies, including the South African Private Practitioners’ Forum, voiced scepticism about the bill, calling it unrealistic, too expensive and would potentially damage the healthcare sector, particularly when the country is facing a financial crisis.
13 Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health said last week that it was seeking urgent legal advice from the Office of the State Attorney on the constitutionality of the NHI bill.
14 “Before starting deliberating the bill, it will be important to address concerns raised by various people, including those, who think they will find space to challenge the constitutionality of the bill,’’ Committee Chairperson, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said. (Xinhua/NAN)