The Portfolio Committee on Health has voted to move forward with the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill as African National Congress (ANC) MPs muscled through their majority in voting for the bill to be debated in Parliament.
The desirability vote means the bill is one step closer to being cemented into law.
Wednesday's vote, which saw all ANC MPs vote to move the bill forward, was rejected by opposition MPs.
The NHI Bill envisions universal healthcare by establishing a NHI Fund.
According to the committee's bill summary, the fund would purchase healthcare services for registered users to equalise access to healthcare.
Talks about the NHI began as early as 2019 when Parliament first held a presentation by the health department.
Since then, thousands of people have attended hundreds of public hearings to share their opposition or support for the legislation.
Opposition political parties rejected the committee's decision to move forward with the bill, saying the NHI will not address healthcare inequalities in its current form.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the state would be left bankrupt by the insurance plan.
DA MP Michele Clarke said the bill did not provide any solutions, and the state could not procure services ethically without corruption.
We have seen this clearly with the delayed procurement of vaccines and the billions lost as a result of Covid-corruption. Even the former minister of health, Zweli Mkhize, was implicated in the Digital Vibes corruption scandal.
"The DA will continue to fight the NHI Bill with everything in our power. We encourage all South Africans to oppose the NHI Bill and to sign our petition. The bill in its current form – and under ANC management – will never be the answer to universal healthcare in South Africa.
"The ANC government has done nothing but destroy and mismanage the current public healthcare infrastructure and systems. The destruction of medical aids and raising personal taxes by up to R5 000 more a month will only further cripple taxpayers and the economy," Clarke said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) shared similar concerns that the bill lacked a clear outline of solutions to the country's struggling healthcare system.
It said only those who lived in urban areas would benefit, while rural communities would continue to struggle to access primary healthcare.
The party said that, despite its support for universal healthcare, the NHI, in its current form, would only help the private sector to access public money.
"The bill, in its current form, will not resolve the infrastructure crisis in public facilities in rural and township areas. Over and above this, it will merely open the gates of private hospitals at a high cost, tangibly meaning that the government of the day intends to outsource its duty to provide healthcare to the private sector.
"This will result in permanent access by the private sector into the coffers contributed to by our people and no evident transformation of the healthcare system to the benefit of the poor.
"Our people in rural, informal settlements and township areas will still be exposed to the current rot of public healthcare facilities as with the NHI referral system stipulated in the bill, and one has to go to the nearest healthcare facility for medical intervention," the EFF said.
In a statement, the committee said it had held public hearings from October 2019 to February 2020, which 11 564 people attended.
Further submissions, amounting to 961, were received, while 338 891 written submissions were processed.
The committee said the department had addressed the concerns raised in the submissions.
The bill will now be debated by Parliament, where it will likely be voted on and passed.