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21/06/2018 17:33 SAST | Updated 21/06/2018 17:43 SAST

Health Minister's New Bill To Make Healthcare 'Affordable' For All

According to Aaron Motsoaledi, 'the rich will subsidise the poor' in the quest for accessible healthcare for all.

Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi.
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Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi.

Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi earlier today gave his backing to changes that he says will make medical insurance affordable for most people, as South Africa shifts towards universal health-insurance coverage.

The health system in this, Africa's most industrialised economy, still harbours enormous inequalities more than two decades after the ANC took power.

Only an estimated 10 percent of South Africa's population can afford expensive private healthcare, while the majority queue at understaffed public hospitals that lack critical equipment.

"As it is now generally accepted, the cost of private healthcare is out of the reach of many citizens, even the well-to-do ones," Motsoaledi told reporters.

Motsoaledi backed a Medical Schemes Amendment Bill that proposes to abolish co-payments, in which an insurer pays a portion of a patient's bill, with the rest of the money coming from the patient's own pocket.

Motsoaledi said the amendment meant that every amount charged to a patient will be fully settled by the scheme, so that the sick are not "burdened" with payments.

The measures are also aimed at stopping the practice of using brokers within the medical-insurance environment, as well as replacing prescribed minimum benefits for mostly hospital-based conditions with comprehensive service benefits.

These comprehensive service benefits will include primary healthcare, such as family planning, vaccination and screening services, Motsoaledi said.

READ: NHI Will Be Compulsory For All South Africans — If It Ever Happens

Other changes include introducing a system in which higher earners subsidise those who are paid less.

"The present contribution table charges the same rate for a lower-income earner and a high-income earner for the same benefits. This practice completely negates the principles of income cross-subsidisation," the minister said.

-Reuters

Reporting by Wendell Roelf. Editing by James Macharia, Catherine Evans and HuffPost