JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Aug. 12 (UPI) — South Africa’s government has announced plans to introduce a universal healthcare scheme to be phased in nationally in the next 14 years.
South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal societies where quality healthcare is available only in the private sector, analysts said.
More than 80 percent of South Africans cannot afford private medical insurance and rely on publicly funded hospitals, which charge a small fee but are often overwhelmed, the BBC reported Friday.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the quality of healthcare offered in public hospitals was “often totally unacceptable.”
“Without NHI [national health insurance], the burden of disease in the country will not be reduced because the majority of the population — and the section suffering the greatest ill health — will not access good quality healthcare,” he said in a statement.
The scheme, to be government-owned and publicly administered, will be funded from general tax revenues, the Mail & Guardian Online reported.
The governing African National Congress estimated initial costs to set up the scheme would be about $18 billion.