ANC bused people in to support 'flawed' NHI Bill, says DA

The DA says that after a thorough analysis of the NHI bill it has found 25 reasons it is deeply flawed and will not achieve quality health care for all.
The DA says that after a thorough analysis of the NHI bill it has found 25 reasons it is deeply flawed and will not achieve quality health care for all.
Image: Brett Eloff

The DA has brought into question parliament's public participation process over the National Health Insurance Bill, saying some of the public hearings were hijacked for political purposes.

The bill seeks to establish and provide mandatory prepayment health-care services for all South Africans.

The DA said participants in the public meetings were being misinformed about the legislation.

DA MPs claimed on Monday that at some of the public hearings, fraudulent and misleading leaflets, which spread misinformation, were distributed. These were produced with parliamentary details, giving people the impression they have been produced by parliament.

The leaflet urged people to sign their consent to support the bill, DA MP Lindy Wilson said. It was withdrawn after the DA reported their distribution to Cedric Frolick, the National Assembly's chairperson responsible for committees.

“People have been seriously misled about what the NHI is. It is a funding model; it is not a service delivery model. They are supporting it on the grounds that they have been misled as to what the actual NHI is and what it means,” said Wilson.

She said South Africans were not properly informed about what this bill meant and what it contained. This, she said, became clear in the public hearings.

“Obviously there has been mass mobilisation. People have been ferried in [by taxis], in party regalia and coming to the hall singing struggle songs. That is the mobilisation. It's a rally, it's not public participation,” said Wilson.

“They have designated certain people to speak. It's very scripted, with everyone saying almost the same thing, supporting the bill.

“What we are hearing time and again is people saying: 'Yes, we will support it because tomorrow we know we are going to have clinics open 24 hours a day, tomorrow the hospital will be fixed, tomorrow we will have enough doctors and enough nurses and enough beds and enough linen and no more queues',” she said.

Wilson was addressing parliament-based journalists alongside other DA MPs, including the party's newly appointed chief whip, Natasha Mazzone. This was just before the party made its 17-page written submission on the bill.

Party MPs brought with them boxes with some of the 87,000 submissions it had received on the bill through its online petition launched some months ago.

The DA is opposed to the bill, arguing that while the country's public health system was falling apart, the proposed scheme was not the desired remedy.

The National Assembly's portfolio committee on health continues to hold public hearings in community halls around the country. It has been to four provinces since it embarked on the process last month.

Another DA MP, Siviwe Gwarube, said the party believed one of the biggest flaws with the proposed legislation was that it spoke to only issues of money and how it would fund the public health system, but did not speak to quality or how this would be sustainable.

She said universal health care was a question of two things: how to fund the system, and how to ensure its quality.

“Through our thorough analysis of the bill, we have found 25 reasons why the bill in its current form is deeply flawed and will not achieve quality health care for all,” she said.

Among the main sticking points, the DA is concerned that the bill makes provision for the establishment of an NHI fund which will be managed by a board appointed by the health minister.

“We believe this goes against every single good governance principle where you have public office bearers literally overlooking and overseeing the management of a multi-billion-rand fund.

“We have seen how SOEs have been managed in our country, and we have no doubt this fund would follow the same fate if we are not successful in stifling it,” said Gwarube.

She said they have also identified that the appointment of the board, its resignation, the appointment of its chairperson, its quorum, which are all important governance structures, have not been built in into the bill.

Gwarube said they identified that more than R5bn had been wasted on the NHI pilot projects, and that some of the lessons that were meant to be taken from that process had not informed the drafting of the bill.

She said while it was unclear how the scheme would be funded, the DA was opposed to a personal income tax increase.

Gwarube also bemoaned various elements of the bill being vague, including lack of clarity on what package of services would be provided by the state under NHI.

“It is only fair for South Africans to contribute to a process where they know exactly what it is that will be covered by the bill. As it stands people don't know. They don't know what the role of medical aids will be, they don't know what the referral pathways will be."

Chairperson of the health committee Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo was not immediately available for comment.

The deadline to submit written comment on the bill is November 29.

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