Private healthcare prices in South Africa have to be regulated, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.
Speaking at the Board of Healthcare Funders conference at Sun City, Motsoaledi called for a pricing negotiation forum, saying healthcare in South Africa was "predatory".
He said the health structure was worse now than during apartheid.
"There is a tendency to believe that a long and healthy life is the right of those that can afford it and that is totally wrong," he said.
"The reality is that our people are dying in large numbers. We are running a healthcare system in this country that is not working."
The solution lay in re-engineering the primary healthcare system.
Motsoaledi announced a plan to introduce three streams of care, which would have a particular impact in rural areas.
Board spokesman Heidi Kruger welcomed Motsoaledi's comments, saying: "I think it's brilliant. The sooner it comes through the better. We can't have a situation where there is no containment on costs."
Kruger said private healthcare providers charged whatever they wanted, "pushing up" medical aid premiums.
The current system was an "open-ended liability for funders" so medical schemes could not budget properly.
Regulating healthcare costs would be "very constructive" and "provide certainty", Kruger said.
Motsoaledi is hoping to begin setting up the pricing forum by the end of the year.
However, he told delegates at the conference that hospitals were creating a stumbling block in the process because that sector did not want to have its prices regulated.
Motsoaledi accused the public and private health sectors of "engaging in destructive, unsustainable practices". He was particularly outspoken about the high cost of private hospital treatment and called for a stronger emphasis on primary care, rather than the present curative system with its "rapidly escalating" costs.
"The public health system is in a crisis of quality and I am going to deal with it head on, but it is not an excuse for profiteering," he said.
"Our country is going in the wrong direction . all of us, public and private," he said. "We have a predatory healthcare system where the sick and the vulnerable are the ones who get attacked."
This report presents the methods and findings of a qualitative study of the experiences of patients taking medication for HIV infection as part of an antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme in five sites in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa. The study, known as the ADHERE Project, was designed by MEASURE Evaluation and implemented in collaboration with Health Systems Trust to provide information to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health for use in expanding and improving their ART services.