Patrick Leeman: The Sunday Tribune, 8 September200
A Superb healthcare system catering for all its people, may benefit South Africans before the decade is out, says a medical aid representative.
The Department of Health has prepared a comprehensive report on the future of medical care and has invited comment from interested players.
According to Mr Jerry Bryant, chief executive officer of the National Independent Medical Aid Scheme (Nimas), the report is critical of the current two-tier model of public and private healthcare. This model, it says, wastes scarce financial and specialised resources.
He says the report highlights the need to achieve a balance between those who can afford to pay for their healthcare, and those who cannot. It recognises that, while the state will have to remain responsible for those who cannot afford to pay, ultimately everyone who is employed will have to contribute, to either a state-sponsored or a private medical scheme.
All these schemes, it says, will have to provide a basic set of guaranteed benefits at a set contribution rate. Bryant says the government envisages greater control over medical schemes, administrators and brokers. The state is also proposing the establishment of a single civil service scheme for its one million civil servants. Many of the reforms, says Bryant, will require legislative change and the report envisages a time-frame of about six years to achieve all its goals.
He says that one aspect of the report that has been heartily welcomed by medical aid schemes is the health department's recognition of their central role when it comes to national healthcare policy.It's possible, though, he cautions, that the government will want a large measure of central control over medical aid scheme activities.
The sheer size of the pool of patients and the financial resources that these patients generate, he says, makes the medical aid industry irresistible to the policymakers in government.
Bryant says that, if all the parties concerned accept the report, there could be difficult years ahead for healthcare. However, with sufficient goodwill by all the players concerned, coupled with a strong political will, there is much to be optimistic about, he says.
(Patrick Leeman: The Sunday Tribune, 8September2002)