Public submissions on NHI bill to get attention early in 2020

DA opposed to any plans to out source assessment of inputs that stood atmore than 100,000 as at October 23

Business Day · 3 Dec 2019 · Tamar Kahn Science & Health Writer

Parliament’s portfolio commit tee on health will only consider how to manage the vast volume of written submissions it has received in response to the national health insurance (NHI) bill in February, says committee chair Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

At issue is whether MPs scrutinise each of the hundreds of thousands of submissions themselves or out source some of the work to a third party.Parliament’s rules are silent on the issue, according to University of Cape Town constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos, and it has recently faced controversy over out sourcing the submissions received in response to its review of land expropriation without compensation.

Dhlomo said he did not know how many written submissions on the NHI bill had been received by the November 29 dead line, but parliament indicated on October 23 it had already received more than 100,000 written submissions. The bill is the first piece of enabling legislation for the government’s plans for implementing universal health coverage, which aims to ensure eligible patients have access to health services that are free at the point of care.

The bill is being processed by the National Assembly and was released by parliament for comment on August 8.

In a parallel process, parliament’s portfolio committee on health is holding public hearings in the provinces and has already toured Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZuluNatal, and on Sunday wrapped up in the Eastern Cape.

Dhlomo said the committee plans to complete its public hearings in the remaining four provinces early in 2020, which will begin after President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of-the-nation ad dress, scheduled for February 13.

“We will be seeking guidance from parliament about the process to fol low,” he said.

DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said it is important that the committee agrees on terms of reference for handling the written inputs, as well as the process for managing oral submissions. The DA is opposed to out sourcing the job entirely, and wants the committee to be involved in scrutinising the written submissions.

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