Cabinet on Friday announced that it has approved the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill of 2018 to be published in the Government Gazette for public comments.
A key provision of the bill will be the establishment of an NHI fund to pay for health services so that all South Africans have access to quality care.
“The bill seeks to establish the NHI Fund of South Africa, as a public entity, so as to provide for a sustained universal health access that is affordable and of high quality. It also sets out its functions, powers and duties,” Cabinet said in a statement following its regular fortnightly meeting.
The bill provides a framework for the active purchasing of health care services by the fund on behalf of users and creates mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient use of the resources of the fund to meet the health needs of users.
The NHI, which government began piloting in 2011, proposes a single, compulsory medical scheme for all, with private medical schemes being reduced to offering complementary services.
All citizens and permanent residents will be covered by the NHI, while a special fund will be set up for refugees. Documented asylum seekers will be able to access emergency care. Everyone else will need medical insurance.
NHI is being introduced in three phases, starting with preparing central hospitals to provide specialised services to all citizens, under the control of central government.
Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi is next week expected to hold a full media briefing to unpack this bill.
Streamlining science and technology
Cabinet also approved for the introduction of the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill of 2017 to Parliament.
The bill harmonises the provisions which regulate the operations and governance of the public entities that report to the Minister of Science and Technology.
This will ensure consistency in all requirements to be met and processes to be followed.
Cabinet, meanwhile, noted the astrological developments over the past weekend when astronomers working with the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, USA, discovered a small asteroid (2018 LA) near the orbit of the Moon, which hours later made contact with Earth.
The resultant explosion, which sent waves of low-frequency sound (infrasound) rippling through the atmosphere, was detected by an infrasound monitor in South Africa, which was deployed as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Cabinet said this highlights the growing capability of modern sky surveys to discover asteroids targeting Earth and South Africa’s internationally recognised capability.
The executive went on to approve the publishing of the 2016/17 survey on government funding for Scientific and Technological Activities.
The survey annually monitors the performance of the science and technology sector, and its contribution to South Africa’s growth and development.
In other matters, Cabinet approved the Regional Engagement Strategy for Biosafety and its implementation.
“Biotechnology is recognised as an important potential driver of economic growth and a major tool in the fight against hunger and poverty, especially in developing countries,” Cabinet said, adding that this strategy will facilitate intra-African trade and improve the region’s competitiveness in global markets.
“It will improve South Africa’s collaboration and cooperation within the African region.”
Furthermore, Cabinet approved the submission of the 2016/17 report on the performance of the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive Programme to Parliament.
The incentive programme has enabled companies to diversify their R&D portfolio, generate intellectual property and create new products.
The incentive programme, which was introduced in November 2006, is being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology, together with the South African Revenue Service and National Treasury.
From March 2016 to February 2017, a total of 153 R&D tax incentive applications were received from 117 companies, 58 of which were first-time applicants.
The applications were for 571 R&D projects worth an estimated R3.6 billion.
Cabinet said it is pleased with the growth in the number of companies that invest in R&D and continues to call on business to invest more in R&D, which remains an important pillar of efforts to grow the economy.