People are being misled about what the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is really about, the DA said as it delivered about 87,000 petitions about the bill to parliament.
DA spokesperson on health Siviwe Gwarube, her deputy Lindy Wilson, DA MP in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Mbulelo Bara and chief whip Natasha Mazzone addressed the media on the steps outside the National Assembly on Monday, with some boxes behind them representing the petitions.
The DA, which supports universal healthcare but is opposed to the NHI, also has its own submission on the bill.
Over the past few weeks, the portfolio committee on health visited Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape, Limpopo and this past weekend KwaZulu-Natal for a public participation process.
“What has been clear is what we suspected all along,” said Wilson. “South Africans are not properly informed about the contents of this bill.”
She added people have raised the quality of healthcare as their main concern, but they have been led to believe that the bill will fix what is broken with the healthcare system.
“It will not,” said Wilson. “They’ve been seriously misled about what this bill entails.”
The DA has also lodged a complaint with parliament’s chair of chairs, Cedrick Frolick, about misleading leaflets distributed at the hearings. The leaflets contained information of parliamentary officials, giving the impression that it is from parliament, while this was not the case.
Gwarube said they were going to keep a “close eye” on the committee’s handling of the written submissions from the public on the NHI and ensure that each one was read by the committee’s members.
She added while the DA had created a platform for people to make submissions, the party provided space for members to leave their own comments, and it would also submit those who supported the bill.
Gwarube said it was not an attempt to sway the public participation process or mislead people about the bill.
Bara said once the bill was referred to the NCOP, he would request that it be considered by parliament’s legal services again. “The days when the NCOP is just a rubber stamp for what the National Assembly does is over.”
“We want the healthcare system of this country to work. However, we need to make sure that we do so effectively, efficiently and with the citizens in mind,” Gwarube said.
“We must ensure that the path to universal healthcare is not paved with bad policy and even worse legislation.”
In a statement released on Sunday after the committee’s hearing at the Clydesdale Community Hall in Umzimkhulu, committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo said there was wide support for the NHI from the community, although some felt that challenges in the current system should be addressed first before the NHI became a reality.
“As has been the case with the other hearings thus far, residents took the opportunity to raise other challenges in the healthcare system, such as the shortage of hospitals, shortage of doctors, and running out of medication were raised repeatedly,” read the statement.
“Several participants raised concerns over the proposed emergency medical care that will be provided to asylum seekers or foreigners, should they need it. Residents wanted clarity on whether this group of people would be contributing to the NHI Fund. They agreed that even in the case of an emergency, foreigners should make a contribution to the fund.”
Wilson said the bill’s handling of foreign nationals was “deeply problematic” for other reasons.
She said it would only provide emergency medical care for asylum seekers and those who were illegally in the country, which might be in contravention of Section 27 of the Constitution.
“Sick people are sick people,” Wilson said.
The deadline for submissions on the bill is November 29.