Letter: Regulations undermine health care for all

For all the years of vilification and suffocation, it seems the SA government still has the private sector on speed dial. Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach said last week that medical schemes were working closely with the government to devise a plan to subsidise about 30% of the population for coronavirus vaccination.

Noach said: "Medical aid schemes will pay a slightly higher price for the vaccine than the cost price. Through the payment's higher price through a central procurement hub, probably administered by someone like the Solidarity Fund, the surplus that’s generated will be used to subside that fee for members of the public who don’t have medical scheme cover as well."

The state has endeavoured to provide people with all they may need — why is it now placing the responsibility on the shoulders of private business? Perhaps the decades of fiscal and management folly, through vanity projects such as SAA, can provide some measure of an answer.

That medical scheme members would be happy to provide assistance to those who do not have cover masks the crucial point: what regulations and restrictions have been put in place over the years, by the department of health and the Council for Medical Schemes, that have made it prohibitively difficult (or in some cases illegal) for private medical schemes to provide services and products to lower-income individuals and families? Which measures of licensing have contributed to the shortage of doctors and nurses in the under-pressure hospitals?

The government would do well to investigate these questions, assuming it doesn't want to inhibit the country's response to any new pandemics in coming years. Bear in mind that this very same government that provides scant details on a Covid-19 vaccine procurement and rollout plan wants South Africans to believe it can run an efficient national health insurance.

This letter was first published on BusinessDay on 10 January 2020

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