SA universal health bill to face legal challenges

South Africa’s main opposition party, alongside a number of labour and business groups, have said they would take legal action against a bill aimed at providing universal health coverage.

BBC earlier reported that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa was due to sign the contentious proposal into law on Wednesday.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) bill seeks to give South Africans “of all races, rich or poor and legal long-term residents access to quality healthcare. Its implementation would cost billions of dollars.

“On Tuesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) party leader said his party would challenge the law ‘all the way to the Constitutional Court’.

“Our legal team was briefed months ago already and will file our legal challenge against this devastating legislation without delay,” John Steenhuisen added.

Elsewhere, trade union Solidariteit said it had warned Ramaphosa it would take legal action against the bill “within an hour” of it being signed on Wednesday.

The South African Health Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC), which represents 25 000 healthcare workers in the public and private sectors, is quoted by news agency Reuters as saying it was also exploring a legal challenge.

According to the Reuters news agency, the group said the bill would “reverse, rather than progress, equitable, quality healthcare in South Africa”.

Supporters of the bill hail it as a generational change that would reverse persistent inequality.

The South African Medical Association Trade Union, which represents most public sector doctors, called it “a monumental shift towards achieving universal health coverage and ensuring that every South African has access to quality healthcare irrespective of their socio-economic status”.

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