Nonprofit, public benefit organisation the Free Market Foundation (FMF) on Wednesday declared that government must not deny South Africans their constitutional right to take care of their own healthcare needs.
This follows the Council for Medical Schemes’ (CMS’s) announcement in December that no Low-Cost Benefit Options (LCBOs) will be allowed for low-income consumers and no health insurance products will be allowed beyond March 2021.
The CMS is an autonomous statutory body created by Parliament to regulate medical schemes in South Africa.
Unpacking the pronouncement in Johannesburg on Wednesday, FMF health policy unit member Michael Settas said the decision to do away with LCBOs and health insurance products – without methods of replacement and costs – was a violation of the constitutional rights of the affected citizens.
The organisation stated that the pronouncement does not reflect a balanced view on how to increase access to quality healthcare for low income consumers.
“They also demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how private health insurance products have the potential to reach many lower income individuals, providing increased access to quality healthcare for all South Africans,” said Settas.
He said it was difficult to understand what the motive behind the move was, saying that the CMS and the private sector have been working together to develop the LCBO for the past five years.
“Banning health insurance options and scrapping the move to introduce affordable medical scheme cover demonstrates a flagrant disregard for individuals' rights to enter into voluntary private contracts to protect themselves from unforeseen out-of-pocket payments when catastrophe strikes," explained FMF director Jasson Urbach.
He warned that this decision would lead to hundreds of thousands of people being stripped of their cover.
The entirely predictable consequence is an increased burden on an already over-stretched public healthcare sector, this taking place at a time when the country is in a fiscal crisis.
Urbach explained that poor and middle-income South Africans will be denied their constitutional rights of freedom of association, access to quality healthcare, and protection of their private property.