‘It’s business as usual’: BHF to medical scheme members before NHI signing – TimesLIVE

The Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) has assured medical aid scheme members it’s “business as usual” after an announcement that the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is to be signed into law.
The board also confirmed it will challenge section 33 of the bill which it deems “unconstitutional and unlawful”.
The government on Monday said President Cyril Ramaphosa is to sign the bill on Wednesday, paving the way for enactment of “universal health coverage”.
The bill, which was passed in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces last year, “will provide free healthcare at the point of care for all South Africans, whether in public or private health facilities”.
Health minister Joe Phaahla has previously said that NHI would “be implemented in two remaining phases from 2024 to 2026, while between 2026 and 2028 government will focus on establishing the board and CEO and several key committees of the NHI fund”.
BHF spokesperson Nokuzola Mtshiya, in an interview with TimesLIVE, said their focus would be to protect the interests of medical aid scheme members. The entity also urged members not to panic as the bill had a long way to go.
“From a BHF perspective, we have to protect the beneficiaries on medical schemes. While we welcome the bill, because South Africa needs it, we’re disappointed they were not able to strengthen it so it achieves what its policy intends.
“We don’t believe in its current form it’s going to achieve universal health coverage. There’s a lot of gaps, specifically around medical scheme members. We have section 33, which we disapprove of and believe is unconstitutional and unlawful, where a medical scheme member doesn’t have a choice because the bill reduces the role of the medical scheme.
“However, the biggest thing from our side is to say to our medical scheme members, it’s business as usual. We are fighting for the existence of schemes, as BHF. Medical scheme beneficiaries shouldn’t panic because the NHI Bill will take time to roll out.”
The impact a mass exodus of members from medical aids would have on schemes would create an “unsustainable” environment for them, Mtshiya said. 
Speaking on the challenges around section 33, BHF’s Dr Katlego Mothudi said they wanted it removed “as it reduces the role of medical schemes that are a national asset”.
This section states that once the NHI has been fully implemented, “medical schemes may only offer complementary cover to services not reimbursable by the fund”.
“The BHF will immediately institute legal proceedings to challenge section 33 that is unconstitutional and unlawful with a view to ensuring the longevity of the industry,” he said.
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