15 January 2018

South Africa: NHI Payment Issues Resolved, Dept Says

The Department of Health says the late payment of staff at NHI pilot sites has been resolved and that this does not set the tone for the roll out of the programme.

South Africa is piloting the National Health Insurance (NHI), which will see citizens accessing health care based on their health needs, irrespective of their socio-economic status. The NHI -- a health financing system that is designed to pool funds to provide access to quality, affordable health care -- is part of government's major health sector reforms and is being rolled out over a 14-year period.

Media reports on Sunday said doctors and pharmacy assistants contracted to assist in the project had experienced delays in receiving their payments. However, Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja on Monday confirmed to SAnews that the issue of late payment had been resolved.

Maja said the late payments were due to a change of payment administrators and an unanticipated problem in the administrative support for the project. Notwithstanding, Maja said these challenges had been resolved.

He said this would not affect the roll out of the NHI, as the doctors and pharmacists in question have received payments for more than 50 months without incident. The pilot project started in April 2012.

Maja said those affected by the late payments were not employees but service providers.

The pilot, Maja said, is being conducted to get a sense of interest from private sector health practitioners, and to see how health practitioners and clinic staff would work together.

The pilot is also an opportunity to test payment and administrative mechanisms, as the NHI fund would be a separate entity with its own administrative processes, Maja said.

Addressing the media after Cabinet approved the White Paper on the NHI in 2015, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said only 16.2% of South Africa's population was covered by medical aid, while over 80% of the population was limited to accessing public health care services.

Minister Motsoaledi said South Africa spends 8.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health and 4.1% of the GDP is spent on 84% of the population (the majority using the public health sector), while 4.4% of GDP was spent on only 16% of the population in 2015/16.

In May 2017 while tabling his department's Budget Vote, Minister Motsoaledi said tax credits being earmarked for the establishment of the NHI Fund amounted to R20 billion.

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