The price of private healthcare in South Africa has increased by 300% in the last 10 years, moving from R42bn in 2002 to R142bn in 2014, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.
He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Health Market Inquiry underway in Pretoria to find a way to make healthcare affordable for all South Africans. He said he was surprised to hear people question the amount it would cost to implement the National Health Insurance scheme currently in the pipeline, while not questioning the current medical aid schemes.
"When we released the white paper, people asked why can't we release the figures and said it's going to be expensive, while there is already an expensive system is staring them in the eyes," he said.
"In 2002, the total expenditure of private health care was R42bn. In 2014, it was R142bn. It increased by 300% in a decade. If it continues like that, in another decade it will be half a trillion rand."
Motsoaledi questioned why people were not questioning the current system, but worried about a new one. He said it did not make sense for a system that only serves 16% of the population to be so expensive.
"Nobody is asking about that, but you're asking about NHI which is still coming, but not about a system you're faced with and which is escalating in front of your eyes. That system is only serving 16% of the population."
"Can you imagine this country spending half a trillion for 16% of the population? What does that mean? Why is the country spending R142bn? Nobody is asking why it's like this, but you're asking about NHI. NHI is going to try and solve these problems because if we don't, we are going to collapse the health care sector," he said.
The Competition Commission of SA is conducting a market inquiry in the private healthcare sector in terms of Chapter 4A of the Competition Act, 89 of 1998. It seeks to "implement measures to increase market transparency" and "advise, and receive advice from, any regulatory authority".
Motsoaledi said he was hopeful there would be tangible results at the end of the process to ensure all South Africans benefit from the healthcare system.
"For me, what I want out of this is a fair system that will make access to healthcare for all South Africans. As it is at the moment, I can't claim that is happening. I can't say it is happening, because it is not. All these people here are giving evidence to that. It means there must be change," he said.
"Both the public and private healthcare sectors need to be massively reorganised if we are going to have universal healthcare," he said.