South African elected officials voted in favor of universal health coverage. In the short term, the citizens of the country will be able to receive free treatment in hospitals.
It is a real revolution. On paper, anyway. In South Africa, Parliament has just passed a bill on the establishment of universal health coverage. The text, titled “National health insurance”, passed on Tuesday, but has yet to be presented to the upper house of Parliament, the National Council of Provinces.
If, on the government side, Social Security for All is a real step forward, “historic” in the words of the Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla, on the opposition side, we remain skeptical. Blame it on overcrowded and ill-equipped hospitals. While the Minister of Health now foresees "a fair, accessible, affordable and strong health care system", the opposition instead predicts a collapse of the entire health sector.
Concretely, if it is definitively adopted, the law "will guarantee to all South Africans access to the same clinic or the same hospital (public or private), near their place of residence or work, without their having to to pay. The government will pay”. Social security modeled on the systems of several Western countries, which will then be financed by taxes and duties.
For the Democratic Alliance (DA), the bill is only an electoral maneuver which should enable the ruling party, the ANC, to garner votes in the general elections scheduled for next year. But with barely 16% of South Africans having private medical insurance, the law is symbolic in a country whose history is marked by apartheid. Especially since the recognition of the right to social security is enshrined in the 1996 Constitution.
It remains to be seen how the situation of private hospitals will evolve. The latter regret having been associated with this new text, some of their acts should no longer be covered by national insurance. The leaders of private establishments believe that they will be the funders of the public sector.