If there is one thing that the medical industry in South Africa can agree on, it is that medical bills are too high.
The area where agreement fails, however, is in what is driving the high costs and what the remedy should be. Every sector have their theories, hypothesis and no one seems to agree what the solution could be.
I am fully behind the establishment of a National Health Scheme (NHI) because I believe passionately that access to health care is a human right and should be afforded to all South Africans. But at what point does price start to change people’s minds about the value of caring for their neighbour?
I am sure that very few people would refuse to pay a small amount to ensure that their fellow citizens are provided with health care, but for most people there is a threshold to their altruism, a point beyond which they begin to feel that the costs are too high.
The same is true for medical schemes. How much can costs be increased before they begin to drive people away? How much is too much for the average member of the public to afford?
When I read recently that the National Treasury estimates that taxpayers will be expected to pay R80 billion more by 2025 to fund NHI, my heart sank.
What is the solution? Are these figures based on costs which are already unacceptably high?
Last week, at the 6th World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, Jonathan Broomberg, CEO of Discovery Health told delegates that medical inflation in South Africa last year was double the consumer price index (CPI).
Doctors’ tariffs are just one driver of high costs. Others include hospital and equipment costs, while patients with a chronic conditions claim four times as much as those without. Ironically, as research makes previously inoperable conditions treatable, the costs go up as well. The gap between expectation and reality is growing daily. Patients obviously want access to the latest technology at the lowest possible cost. Doctors want to maximise their income and medical schemes must find a balance or ways to balance their books.
A recent article in business Report quoted Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, chairman of the South African Medical Association, as refuting claims that specialist are overcharging for their services. SAMA’s position is that the vast majority charge between 100 percent and 110 percent of scheme rates for prescribed minimum benefits (PMBs) Do you agree with this and why?
Perhaps the answer is to ensure that there is full transparency when it comes to costs of health care and treatment. We also need to ensure, each in our own way, that the general standard of health care in our country improves. So why don’t you let us know what three things you would do to help control costs escalations in our fragile healthcare system?