The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) presented its submission in support of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health today.

COSATU and the overwhelming majority of workers are in support of an NHI. The majority of South Africans, in particular the working class, lack access to quality and affordable health care. This is not due to lack of resources but to their blatantly skewed distribution.

South Africa spends 8.5% of its Gross Domestic Product on healthcare. This is higher than many industrialised and peer nations. However, half of this is spent on the 16% of society fortunate enough to have medical aid. The other half is spent on public health care for the 84% dependent upon the state. As a result, we have 1st class private health care available for 16% but charged at exorbitant prices and an overwhelmed public health care battling to provide basic health care for 84%.

Consequently, many workers and their families are infected and dying from easily preventable and manageable diseases. Even workers fortunate enough to have a medical, battle to afford to pay the ever-increasing medical tariffs. Most workers’ medical aids are depleted halfway through the year and they are saddled with unaffordable co-payments.

The reality is that South Africa’s public and private health care systems are broken and unsustainable. It is critical that the NHI Bill be passed and government move with speed to build a quality NHI which will guarantee universal health coverage for all South Africans. Internationally the equivalents of an NHI have worked well and provided positive models for South Africa.

The Federation supports the NHI Bill and its provisions. It is critical that Parliament move with diligence to pass it. It is equally important that government adequately resource the NHI and begin building its foundations.

We simply cannot afford to be a nation that 28 years into democracy still grapples with the blatantly unequal and racially skewed distribution of resources and access to health care. The right to life and access to health care is a constitutional right. It is time that all South Africans are afforded this right.

Issued by COSATU.

For further information please contact:

Matthew Parks

Parliamentary Coordinator

Cell: 082 785 0687