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Cape Town, South Africa.
Courtesy of Damien du Toit, Flickr

South Africa Is One Major Step Closer to Health Care for All

South Africa’s health minister backed changes this week that would make health insurance broadly more accessible throughout the country, Reuters reported.

Despite being one of Africa’s most industrialized and robust economies, only an estimated 10% of the South African population is able to afford private health care, noted the report, with the rest relying upon understaffed public hospitals. But a shift toward universal health care will make services affordable for the majority of citizens.

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“As it is now generally accepted, the cost of private health care is out of the reach of many citizens, even the well-to-do ones,” health minister Aaron Motsoaledi told reporters.

And despite two decades having passed since apartheid and white minority rule ended, there are still racial and societal inequalities, which means the majority of those excluded from coverage are in the black community.

The new Medical Schemes Amendment Bill that Motsoaledi endorsed seeks to end the practice of co-payments, where an insurer pays a portion of a patient’s bill and the rest of the money is owed by the patient. Instead, Motsoaledi said every amount charged to a patient will be fully settled.

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The new program would achieve this by having “higher earners subsidise those who are paid less,” according to Reuters.

“The present contribution table charges the same rate for a lower income earner and a high income earner for the same benefits. This practice completely negates the principles of income cross-subsidisation,” the minister told Reuters.

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As a result of the bill, more comprehensive services will be made available to residents, including primary health care, family planning, vaccination, and screening services.

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