I have been watching the developments around Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms with great interest. Besides having an interest in international healthcare systems in general, I have been fascinated by the progress of the health care laws through the US Congress and then the challenge in the US Supreme Court.
Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld most of the law, saying that Obama did not overstep his power by requiring Americans to buy health insurance. Many commentators have seen it as a surprise victory. You can read more about it here.
It got me pondering the implications for us in South Africa.
- Does this mean that governments have the right to get citizens to take cover or pay a penalty? Perhaps we will see the introduction of an NHI levy? Tax??
- The ruling made it clear that governments must execute their responsibility to ensure all citizens get affordable health care.
- Laws like the Protection of Information Act cannot stop Health Care reform.
I am excited about the implications of this ruling to the right of all people to affordable and effective healthcare.
I believe our laws and the imminent NHIare on the right track. It is too often assumed that everything is rosy overseas, especially in the developed nations, but it is sobering to remember that until Obama fought for their rights, 40 million Americans were without any affordable healthcare provision!
The ruling has given the federal government considerable influence even in areas where it cannot directly regulate. Simply put, Congress is now mandated to tax and spend for the good of the people.
Of course, the individual States can limit the impact but I believe they do so at the risk of losing votes in this election year.
The US Health Care Law is not too different from what we have in South Africa. Our medical fund mutual environment already aligns with World Health Organisation standards for country health policy frameworks. Joseph Kutzin via the W.H.O. has developed a model well accepted in many Countries around the world that tries to answer the question “How do we develop and implement universal financial protection?” This also talks directly to Universal coverage for all a countries citizen.
So from where I sit, this is a great move in the right direction from the world’s biggest economy to protect all its citizens especially the most vulnerable. Great lessons for South Africa as we consider establishing an NHI for all our people.