Government is ready to move into the next phase of its National Health Insurance (NHI) plan with the introduction of a health insurance fund that may be partially financed by a reduction in the tax subsidy currently given to medical scheme members, announced Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.

During his budget speech, Gordhan said the proposed NHI fund is part of the next phase of the implementation of NHI and will be set up this year.

The Treasury said the fund would initially focus on maternal health services, improved mental health care and services for the elderly and disabled. It will also provide hearing aids and glasses through the school health programme.

Gordhan said 11 pilot sites have been used to assess how to grow the insurance system. In his 2016 budget speech, the Finance Minister allocated R4.5 billion for the 11 pilot sites. The Treasury and the National Department of Health (NDoH) are working together to revise and finalise the NHI White Paper and the longer-term financing arrangements, said Gordhan.

Gordhan said the fund would require enabling legislation and a revised White Paper based on the 160 submissions it received from the public. Further details will be provided in the October adjustment budget.

“There will be consultations with stakeholders over the period ahead on reform of the medical scheme environment, including consolidation of public sector funds,” said Gordhan.

The expansion of public health services includes a new Limpopo Central Hospital, R600 million for the commissioning of the new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and a new medical school at the University of Limpopo.

An additional R885 million has been set aside to support the implementation of the universal test-and-treat policy for HIV, a policy adopted by the NDoH last September, which aims to start ARV treatment for all people diagnosed HIV-positive.

Gordhan said the government was committed to achieving universal health coverage in line with the vision of the National Development Plan.

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