Sipho Khumalo, The Mercury
Speaking at the Board of
Healthcare Funders Conference in
yesterday, Tshabalala-Msimang hit back, saying she was responsible for the
entire health system as her stewardship cut across both public and private
sectors. The statement comes amid simmering tensions between the minister and
the private sector over her attempts to control the cost of private health care.
At the height of angry exchanges, United South African Pharmacies called on
Tshabalala-Msimang to leave the private health care sector alone and focus on
fixing the crumbling public heath sector, which she took exception to. In her
address, Tshabalala-Msimang noted that costs in the private health sector had
increased uncontrolled since the 1980s, yet the number of people in
the country on medical aid had not yet reached eight million.
contributions too have been going up, with rates increasing from R3 423 per
medical scheme beneficiary in 1998 to R7 803 in 2008. It has become increasingly
unaffordable for South Africans to belong to medical schemes, she said.
The minister said there was also little evidence to indicate that the
tariff increases were accompanied by improvements in the quality of care or
health outcomes. Tshabalala-Msimang said that an arsenal of legislative measures
were being considered to arrest the scourge of spiralling health costs, and some
were before the national assembly. Tomorrow she will table policy documents in
the cabinet paving the way for the establishment of a National Health Insurance
fund. Touted 14 years ago, the fund seeks to provide universal medical coverage
for all South Africans. The ANC conference in Polokwane last December resolved
that establishing the fund should be expedited. I am quite excited that we
are on track with regards to finalising policy on the National Health Insurance.
We need to get buy-in from the
industry and all stakeholders. We need to move fast on this. We want to
make health care affordable, accessible and of quality, she said. Also
before the house are two bills - the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment
Bill, and the National Amendment Bill. The first paves the way for a new
medicines regulatory authority to replace the Medicines Control Council, and the
second proposes pricing regulations for private hospitals. Reflecting on these
Bills yesterday, Tshabalala-Msimang said they sought to create a health system
that was efficient, equitable and accessible to all South Africans. The
conference continues today at
's International Convention Centre.