DA leader Mmusi Maimane challenges the legality of NHI Bill
The DA has questioned the constitutionality of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill and has written to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to get legal opinion on it.
The NHI Bill, which was formally tabled before parliament last week, seeks to have a universal healthcare system controlled by the state.
Coming at a cost of R250bn, the bill - if passed - will see most of healthcare institutions in the country being free of charge. As it stands, there are public and private healthcare institutions, with the latter mostly used by the affording few who have medical aid. The NHI system aims to remove the affordability factor in the healthcare sector.
Listen to the latest episode of Sunday Times Politics Weekly
Is government high-jacking private healthcare infrastructure?
DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Tuesday said that the Bill will destroy private healthcare – something he believes would be catastrophic given the poor state of the public healthcare.
“The ANC seems to think that in order to fix state hospitals, private sector healthcare needs to be destroyed. Instead of focusing attention on fixing the current condition of our public healthcare system, the ANC government has introduced a scapegoating piece of legislation in the form of the NHI,” said Maimane.
He believes that instead of "destroying" the private healthcare sector, the government should be continuously seeking to strengthen it.
“Ultimately, the public health system needs to be at the same level of standard as the private healthcare system currently is. South Africans cannot afford a situation where it is simply a race to the bottom and their lives do not materially improve.”
Among his other concerns is that the Bill will ultimately centralise decision-making powers in the national government under health minister Zweli Mkhize. He said this was unconstitutional as powers of the health services are supposed to be equally shared with the provincial government.
“On face value, it appears that the Bill actively seeks to curtail this constitutionally granted shared power between national and provincial spheres of government, and we believe that the Bill and the system that it proposes is overly intrusive on the constitutionally enshrined rights of provincial legislatures to also legislate on matters relating to healthcare,” said Maimane.
“It is this possible constitutional breach which Parliament must probe and must begin by obtaining a legal opinion. If we fail to do so, the Bill may spend years in the courts – sapping public funds while South Africans remain trapped without quality healthcare.”