SOUTH AFRICA—South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has signed into law the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which guides the change of South Africa’s health care system in order to attain universal health coverage.

This new law aims to address fundamental socioeconomic imbalances and inequities from the past, with access to excellent care defined by need rather than ability to pay, resulting in better health outcomes and preventing preventable deaths.

The signing event was held in the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and was attended by the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, who also conducted a question-and-answer session with the media immediately following the signing, among other guests.

The signing is a significant step toward a more equal society, coming only two weeks before a highly competitive election.

Speaking after the signing, President Ramaphosa stated that the provision of healthcare has been fragmented, unsustainable, and unsatisfactory, and hence this law would bring equity.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) Act aims to eliminate a two-tier health-care system in which a publicly funded sector that serves 84% of the population is overwhelmed and inefficient, while other people have access to superior treatment through private insurance.

The legislation will gradually reduce the role of private insurance, establish a new public fund to give free access to South African people, and determine the rates and prices that private doctors and healthcare providers may charge for NHI-funded benefits.

Critics argue that the plan will deplete already-strained public funds, limit patient choice, lower care quality, and push talented doctors out of the nation.

Opponents have pledged to fight it in court and labeled it as a vote-buying scheme – which the presidency disputed – before of the election.

Concerns have been raised concerning the law’s affordability and potential tax increases to pay it.

In January, the South African Medical Association (SAMA), which represents 17,000 doctors, expressed concern that as many as 38% of its members might leave South Africa if the NHI was implemented due to widespread skepticism of the government.

SAMA said that uncertainty and fluctuations in compensation, employment security, and the existing state of the medical profession in South Africa are thought to encourage emigration.

They believe that overcrowding, a clear staff shortage, low pay, and persistent health-care funding cuts all have an impact on the purchasing of medical supplies and equipment in public healthcare facilities.

So far, the official opposition Democratic Alliance has stated that they intend to legally oppose the new law.

The civil society organization AfriForum has also declared preparations to contest the law’s constitutionality, while certain business forums have criticized it as unworkable and costly.

The Health Funders Association (HFA), which represents players in the funding of private healthcare, stated that the plan would take a long time to implement.

HFA spokesman Craig Comrie noted that there will be no immediate impact on medical scheme benefits and contributions, nor will there be any tax adjustments.

He went on to stress that the HFA was fully prepared to protect the rights of medical plan members and all South Africans to seek privately funded treatment if necessary.

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