William Saunderson-Meyer on National Health Insurance, Ivermectin

William Saunderson-Meyer is best known for writing about politics, but he is also well-known in the medical community as the editor of Medical Brief. Saunderson-Meyer had a good deal to say about the presentation in parliament last week, on the medical aid funds that are to be nationalised. The editor of Medical Brief tells us about how he got into the medical field and also touches on Ivermectin. Finally, Saunderson-Meyer gives his views on the proposed National Health Insurance. – Jarryd Neves

William Saunderson-Meyer on Ivermectin:

 I don’t take ivermectin and I don’t think it’s a big hoax. I think there’s sufficient evidence, certainly that it’s unlikely to be harmful. SAHPRA has been forced to allow people to act on the clinical advice of their doctors. The one thing that does puzzle me is I occasionally come across someone who believes passionately in Ivermectin but won’t have the vaccine. There certainly is much stronger evidence because the clinical trials have been done specifically around vaccines – which they haven’t done around ivermectin, because it was not created to deal with a pandemic. It surprises me, sometimes, to find someone who supports one and not the other.

On parliament’s discussion on medical aid funds and where the R90 billion came from:

 The medical schemes have built those reserves from the contributions of their members. The schemes are statutorily obliged to keep quite significant reserves so that if there is a run by their members – for instance, during a pandemic – they won’t go bankrupt. By law, they have to keep significant reserves. The more prudent of them keep well beyond the statutorily dictated reserves which, of course, makes a very big fat honeypot for any greedy government to want to dip into.

On the government wanting to dip into the R90 billion reserve and fund National Health Insurance:

Any government would never say no to R90 billion if it’s able to be quietly trousered into the back pocket. In this case, it’s not the government who’s saying it, but effectively, a government organisation. The Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) – which is set up as a statutory body – and essentially appears to do the bidding of the government. It is one of the commanding organisation in our society, that the government completely dominates. When they speak, I think you can say to yourself, this is officially sanctioned or certainly a view that sees itself as being close to government.

On what the President of the HPCSA tells the Health Committee:

Essentially, he’s saying that all the funds that exist in the medical schemes should be transferred to the government – which, of course, would help enormously in terms of funding the NHI. Even R90 billion would probably only provide 20-30% of what it’s going to need. But every little bit helps. I think we need to take two things into consideration. One is that the ANC moves a bit like the lobster in Alice in Wonderland – it takes two steps to the left, one to the right, one backwards and three forward. On that basis, you think that a negotiation has taken place, but in fact, it has advanced two steps in the direction it always was going to go.

When the government puts out that all these funds will be confiscated, it causes a furore and an upset. Maybe what we end up with is that it just settles for 20% or 10% – who knows? It’s the first time I’ve seen this proposed. It comes from outside government, so government can disavow it. The ANC is incredibly good at this. It did it with the expropriation without compensation. It creates a nightmare scenario. Everyone goes ballistic about it. It backs off slightly, but still quite where it wants to be. Everyone then feels enormously relieved that the worst case scenario has been avoided.

On the Board of Healthcare Funders response:

The Board of Healthcare Funders submission to the parliamentary commission basically didn’t deal with that directly. I don’t know if they were as surprised as everyone else was that a Jack in the Box suddenly appeared – most of the submissions on the NHI bill start from the premise that it’s really necessary [and that] we can all agree that it’d be great to have a universal health care system. But the practicalities are, how does one do it in a country where even the president said our financial situation is such we really need to accept that we may not financially proceed with the NHI as we as we would wish to.

The ANC comes to the NHI from a very strong, ideological position. In the Zuma years, it didn’t matter how strong the apparent strength [of] the ideological position was, because Zuma was such a flibbertigibbet and so all over the place. We could all rest assured that he would either come to boredom or a bribe. The unfortunate thing about Ramaphosa is, I think, he’s a very effective person. Although that would not be a popular view, if you see the way he’s driven expropriation without compensation, he has proceeded and he’s doing it because it’s a way of keeping the party together.

The NHI is ideological within the ANC and the alliance in exactly the same way. It’s all very well to say we’re going to take your R90bn. I don’t think the medical schemes or their members are going to be very happy to surrender that R90bn. I think it’s completely unconstitutional. Of course, the HPCSA response to that is [that] the Constitution must be changed.

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