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Healthcare budget: what does this mean for consumers?

By Staff Writer

Following the announcement of the National Budget by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan yesterday, Karin Muller, head of middle market solutions for Sanlam Personal Finance, unpacks the top Budget implications for consumers.

Efforts to improve the quality of, and access to, healthcare for South Africans:

- R360,6 billion will be spent on improving access to quality healthcare over the next three years. This includes the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI).

- To get the NHI off the ground, R1,2 billion will be spent on setting up family health teams made up of nurses, doctors and community health workers who will look after families in facilities and communities, and improve the quality of care in hospitals.

- In addition, R2,5 billion will be spent on increased HIV counselling and testing and extending the threshold for people to receive antiretroviral treatment.

- Maternal and child health services will be improved, with R1,4 billion given to training 400 nurses and midwives, improving health services at schools, and improving services at mother and child wards at district hospitals.

- R2,7 billion will be spent on improving health facilities and medical equipment available across the country.

- Various funding methods will be investigated. A possible increase in the VAT rate and a surcharge on individual taxable income will be considered and investigated this year as part of the options to assist with funding requirements to implement a national health insurance system.


What does this mean for the consumer?

Muller says that there is a clear increase in commitment from Government to improve healthcare standards for all South Africans; particularly poorer sections of the population.  But while changes will be phased in over a number of years, what is clear - and was mentioned in last year’s budget too - is that Government currently does not have sufficient money to implement the entire NHI scheme. This means that it will eventually affect consumers through some form of tax. The specifics are still being investigated, but some of the alternatives are an increase in VAT, removal of medical subsidy and a payroll tax. However, as they are only being investigated, they will not implemented this year.

Moreover, since implementation of the NHI scheme will be phased in, consumers will not immediately benefit from the NHI scheme - although some will hopefully begin to experience improved servicing and benefits.  If you currently have medical aid schemes to provide for your medical needs you will need to keep on providing for your medical aid needs through the payment of a monthly premium.

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