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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements


9 October 1998

COSATU notes with serious concern Business South Africa's (BSA) attempt to delay the passing of the Medical Schemes Bill. This is yet another attempt to scupper the efforts to make the South African health care system accessible to all. The court interdict that they seek should be seen for what it is - a delaying tactic, which betrays their resistance to change.

BSA seeks to delay the Bill on the ground that it should go to Nedlac because there has been insufficient consultation. This is not the case as the Bill was tabled after lengthy consultation with the industry. It contains the same elements that were set out in a widely circulated policy paper released in November 1997, which business had ample time to analyse and debate, Prior to the tabling of the Bill in parliament, various business interests were attacking the Bill in the press for several months. The contention that the Bill was not adequately discussed before it was tabled in Parliament is a transparent stalling tactic and should be rejected.

We will stand solidly behind government's endeavour to transform the health care system. The current state of affairs in which the private sector absorbs the lion's share of health resources, but serving less than 20% of South Africans, needs to be changed. In addition, the trend in the relatively unregulated world of medical aid schemes means that these private schemes increasingly fail to effectively supplement the system of public clinics and hospitals. Private sector schemes that cherry pick the most desirable business and yet fail to provide comprehensive coverage actually weaken the public sector component of the health care system. They do so by diverting resource of those able to pay into the private sector while relying on the public sector to care for those of their members whose needs exceed the scheme's coverage.

COSATU strongly supports the bill as part of a programme to move South Africa away from a segmented system of health care in which vast resources are spent on those who medical aids schemes choose to admit to membership and who can pay the required premiums and the rest of our people must rely on an under- financed public health system. In particular, we support provisions to make medical aid coverage available to all who can pay a single pooled rate, including:

The community rating system which, by prohibiting schemes from charging different rates based on age and health status, ensure that there is cross- subsidisation by the young and healthy of the older and ill; The requirement that medical aid schemes accept persons to membership that are able to pay this community rate, regardless of age, health status, and the like; Ensuring that all medical schemes provide a core set of services to their members by authorising the Minister to prescribe a minimum package of benefits.

There are areas in the Bill that need to be improved. In our submission to the portfolio committee on the 21 September 1998 we have identified areas in which the bill needs to be improved including protection of workers who lose their jobs, that the Bill should seek to regulate medical aid schemes set up by the Bargaining Council rather than disallowing Bargaining Councils from establishing such schemes. We believe the Bill can be improved through the parliamentary process and urge the BSA to reconsider its position and begin to play a more constructive role and less obstructionist role in bringing greater equity to out society.

Issued by COSATU

Nowetu Mpati COSATU Head of Communications

Tel: + 27 + 11 + 339-4911 Fax: + 27 + 11 + 339-2281 E-mail: nowetu@cosatu.org.za