Original Research

An overview of the National Health Insurance and its possible impact on eye healthcare services in South Africa

H. Lawrence Sithole
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 74, No 1 | a18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v74i1.18 | © 2015 H. Lawrence Sithole | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 September 2014 | Published: 30 April 2015

About the author(s)

H. Lawrence Sithole, School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa

Abstract

The National Health Insurance (NHI) is an important development that underpins democracy in South Africa. It aims to redress the inequities of public healthcare delivery by implementing transformational policies towards establishing inclusive public healthcare coverage for the entire population of South Africa, with more emphasis on health promotion. The implementation of this initiative has created some hope amongst primary eye healthcare professionals, such as optometrists, that their profession may finally be given the recognition it deserves. Although the government is contemplating introducing a new directorate for eye healthcare and forming an advisory committee on eye healthcare reporting to the Minister of Health, the extent to which eye healthcare will be incorporated into the NHI is currently not clear. It is believed that the white paper on the NHI will shed some light on these issues. Unfortunately, current indications are that the initiative has serious challenges to overcome such as poor infrastructure, budgetary constraints and lack of interest from other healthcare professionals. Furthermore, corruption issues may also need to be addressed if the NHI is to be implemented successfully. Nevertheless, the NHI remains a positive proposition for universal health coverage for the people of South Africa, and there is hope that primary eye care providers, such as optometrists and other eye care professionals, will also play a greater role in the NHI than they currently do in the public healthcare system.

Keywords

National health insurance; implementation; universal health coverage; eye care

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