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NHI Bill threatens all citizens’ constitutional rights

HFA outlines presidential petition to prevent decimation of the SA healthcare system

Monday, 18 December 2023, The NHI Bill presented to President Cyril Ramaphosa cannot be permitted, as in its current form, it will infringe the rights of all South Africans by destroying the South African healthcare system. The Health Funders Association (HFA) has petitioned the President to withhold assent of the Bill on constitutional and procedural grounds and intends to take the matter as far as necessary and to the Constitutional Court if need be.

“We have taken a strong stand by respectfully urging the President to withhold assent of the Bill, citing constitutional and procedural concerns that pose a significant threat to the integrity of the country’s healthcare system," remarks HFA Chairperson Craig Comrie.

“Should the need arise, the HFA is prepared to escalate the matter to the courts. Our goal is to meticulously align the legislation with the authentic objectives of Universal Health Coverage and the principles enshrined in the South African Constitution.

"Our action in opposing the NHI Bill being signed into law protects the interests of ALL South Africans who will require healthcare in future, including the people we are duty-bound to safeguard through the medical schemes and healthcare administrators we represent,” Comrie says.

While expressing unwavering support for achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in South Africa, the HFA questions Parliament's endorsement of a bill that raises significant constitutional and procedural concerns and fundamentally cannot achieve a sustainable system of UHC.

Some of the primary concerns outlined in the letter include:

  • Constitutional concerns: The NHI Bill's clear infringement on constitutional rights, particularly the right to access healthcare and freedom of choice for South Africans, and by implication, the right to life. The Bill is seriously flawed in that regard, undermining the rule of law.
  • Procedural concerns: Questioning the extent and effectiveness of public consultation during the drafting and review of the NHI Bill, where thousands of submissions resulted in no meaningful changes to the Bill, the HFA advocates for a more inclusive and consultative approach.

The letter implores President Ramaphosa to exercise the powers granted by the Constitution to refer the NHI Bill back to Parliament for review.

“In addition to petitioning the President directly as guardian of the Constitution, the HFA will oppose the NHI Bill in its current form through every possible avenue, including approaching the courts to set aside the Bill on constitutional and procedural grounds.

“The HFA will also seek a High Court interdict against implementation of the NHI Act until the merits of our case have been heard and ruled upon by the High Court.

Craig Comrie concludes, "It is with a heavy heart that we make this plea, urging the President to secure the rights and wellbeing of our people. We will persist to ensure that what is right triumphs in our nation. South Africa deserves leadership that prioritises the welfare of all of its citizens, above all."