The long-awaited White Paper on National Health Insurance (NHI), a policy which seeks to provide universal healthcare insurance, is expected to be released to the public tomorrow, reports BDLive.

There will be keen interest in the proposed financing mechanisms for NHI and the private healthcare industry will also be closely watching what the government has to say about its future role.

Since the release of the Green Paper on NHI in 2011, which proposed implementing it over the following 14 years, the public and private sectors have waited for details of how patients would access the service, implementation and what the funding model would be.

At the time its costs were projected to rise from R125bn in 2012, to R214bn in 2020 and R255bn in 2025, reported BDLive.

The Cabinet met on Wednesday for its last meeting of this year, with the NHI White Paper on its agenda, according to two independent sources.

Among the issues it was expected to decide on was whether to release the White Paper for public comment, or approve it in its current form and instruct the relevant departments to draft enabling legislation.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is expected to brief the SA’s biggest doctor organisation, South African Medical Association (SAMA), on the government’s plans tonight.

While the Department of Health and the Treasury have both been silent since they began crafting the White Paper, Dr Motsoaledi has been dropping hints in recent months.

In August Dr Motsoaledi  told Parliament that the White Paper envisages a future role for the private sector, as services would be purchased from both public and private sector providers. In September, he told delegates at the annual HASA Conference that the White Paper included measures to regulate where doctors work, using a “certificate of need” to place them where the state deemed they were required.

The Treasury said in February 2012 that its initial modelling showed a rise in taxes, most likely a payroll tax, would be needed to fund NHI. Other options included higher value-added tax or a surcharge on income tax. The Treasury also indicated at the time that user fees might be applied for some health services, to prevent overuse.

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