THE government has finally admitted that the National Health Insurance would hit hard on taxpayers and members of medical aid schemes.

In simpler terms, it means that those who are working will pay more tax and their medical aid contributions will be raised, although by yesterday it was still not clear by how much.

Despite enquiries yesterday, no one in government would say how much it would cost to roll out the NHI.

Deputy Health Minister Molefi Sefularo said that "general tax revenues will form the core of the resources required to fund NHI".

"But such funding would not be sufficient for the realisation of universal access to healthcare as envisaged in the National Health Insurance plan.

"There would be other additional resources that would be mobilised, like medical aid schemes to complement the funds generated by tax revenues," Sefularo said.

He was speaking at the two-day annual Hospital Association of South Africa conference in Durban. The theme for this year was "Together towards universal healthcare".

Under the spotlight was the proposed NHI.

According to the Department of Health, the NHI is meant to create an efficient, equitable and sustainable health system for all South Africans.

At present the allocation of resources between the public and private health sectors is very skewed. The private sector, which serves about 7,5 million people (18 percent of the population) has more than 14000 doctors on its payroll, while the public sector, which serves about 38 million people has less than 6000 doctors.

Sefularo said: "The implementation of NHI will correct the ills in the health sector."

"We need innovative ways to further expand access to, and improving the quality of healthcare service for all our people. The NHI is a tool towards the desired universal coverage. It also means better quality healthcare in the private and public sectors of a unitary health system," he said.

The private sector is, however, sceptical about the implementation of NHI.

Hein van Eck, health policy general manager at Medi-Clinic, said: "We support access to quality healthcare for all people, but we are concerned about how NHI would move towards this.

"We agree that the current system is not balanced. The private sector has more doctors than its patients, while the situation is totally different with the public institutions. The mystery is how government plans to balance the situation. Do they just throw everyone into the new system and hope that it works?" Van Eck asked.

He said it would be sensible for the government to test the waters by moving primary healthcare first, which includes antenatal, paediatrics, HIV, TB and malaria.

The NHI plan would be finalised by the end of June. Public comments would then be invited.

Consultations will include all steps leading to the release of the White Paper on the NHI and the adoption of necessary laws.