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Health service must be affordable for poor people

by Siboniso Ntuli
on 15 Jul 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, has called on private healthcare stakeholders to make health services affordable and accessible to all South Africans.

According to the department, annual expenditure on private hospitals was R803 per medical scheme beneficiary in 1997, but this figure increased to R2 320 in 2005.

Medical scheme contributions also increased with contribution rates increasing from R3 423 per medical scheme beneficiary in 1998 to R7 807 in 2005.

Speaking at the opening of this year's Board of Healthcare Funders Conference on Monday at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban, Ms Tshabalala-Msimang said it has become increasingly unaffordable for South Africans to belong to medical schemes.

"This is reflected in the decline in medical scheme membership from about 20 percent of the population in 1998, to about 15 percent of the population in 2005.

"The only significant addition was in 2006 with the introduction of the Government Employees Medical Scheme," she said.

The majority of government employee's on the government medical scheme members did not previously have access to a medical scheme.

She said policy interventions must be developed at the conference which will result in a healthcare system that is effective, efficient, affordable and accessible to all the South Africans.

The conference is taking place until 16 July under the theme "Cutting the Gordian Knot".

"At last year's conference, the general consensus was that the government needed to regulate the private sector to ensure transparency in pricing and to ensure its sustainability among others.

"We have taken this mandate seriously," said Dr Tshabalala-Msimang.

The conference is also expected to discuss on a National Health Insurance and the role of private medical schemes and administrators in such an environment.

The minister said that for many years now they have spoken about the inequities between the public and private health sectors and how best to use all healthcare resources to serve the needs of the people equitably.

"As part of the NHI policy discussion we need to seriously engage on matters relating to funding, revenue collection, purchasing and provision of health services such that our health system will be efficient, effective and equitable.

"Such health system must be appropriately funded so that essential healthcare can be provided," said Dr Tshabalala-Msimang. - BuaNews

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