Private Health Care Squandering Resources, to the Detriment of the Public

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Fikile Mjola

Why does a select group personally vilify ANC policies on national health insurance (NHI)?

The National Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), welcomes the invitation to all South Africans to engage with a policy on NHI.

Let those presumptuous, "respected experts" who are actually lobbyists for vested interests come out of the shadows and transparently table their own alternative proposals that can meet the constitutional imperative and deal with the systemic crisis in our health care system.

It may be surprising that a select group of individuals has been given so much leeway in the commercial press, including the extent to which they have routinely vilified the new minister and some members of the ANC task team.

Other than the extremes to which they are prepared to go, we are yet to see coherent alternative policy |proposals from them, shorn of the condescending "danger" warnings that they have been putting out against the NHI.

The disjointed proposals that they have put forward merely seek to tweak aspects of the uniquitous two-tier health system, while maintaining the inefficient, wasteful and unsustainable private health care industry intact.

Perhaps as a starting point in an attempt to understand the agenda of this lot, it may be advisable to heed the counsel of no less than Adam Smith, in reference to business lobbyists, that their proposals "ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.

"It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same as that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions,deceived and oppressed it."

Need we say more? Who could know them better? Apart from their deliberate falsifications of the draft NHI Plan, the "series of articles" churned out by this coterie of business lobbyists are merely organised around five themes:

l Firstly, it is an attempt to impugn the ANC's right as a party in government to develop a draft policy to give effect to the broad mandate and support given by the overwhelming majority of South Africans, before it is published for engagement in the public domain.

Perhaps this may be a hangover from the recent past when neo-liberal consultants such as Alex van den Heever were given leeway to come up with policy directives that effectively vetoed the democratic mandates of the voters - with the interests of their paymasters in mind;

l Secondly, they claim that the woeful state of our health system and its poor outcomes are merely a function of underfunding in the public sector.

Thus we are told that "the most fundamental problem ailing our health care system is the failure of the public health care sector to meet the health-care needs of citizens", without a commonsense recognition that this is an outcome of the skewed pattern of the distribution of resources.

The private health sector consumes about 60 percent of the resources while catering for no more than 16 percent of the population; what they find wrong is that the |public health sector is burdened with 42 million people with less than 40 percent of the resources;

n Thirdly, they argue that South Africa has "a sophisticated and world-class private health care system that should be seen as part of the solution" and therefore left alone. …