GEMSBusinessLive reports that trade union Solidarity has criticised the recent decision by the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) to guarantee private hospital care to all its members, saying it was an admission of the state’s failure to run an effective public healthcare system.  

Last week GEMS announced that even its lowest-paid members would from January 2020 have cover for private hospital admissions, as part of standardisation of benefits across different options.  Until 2018, Gems members on the lowest salary bands received all hospital care except admissions for childbirth at state hospitals.  That began to change this year, when Gems extended its private hospital cover, which will be further expanded next year.  Solidarity welcomed the move to provide better cover for public servants, but said the development smacked of hypocrisy.  “While Solidarity welcomes the decision itself and believes that all South Africans should have access to private medical care, (it) sheds light on the state’s incoherent behaviour which, on the one hand, regards National Health Insurance (NHI) as a highly necessary intervention, but then negotiates access to private services for their own officials,” Morné Malan, senior researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute, pointed out.  Solidarity is campaigning against NHI, the government’s policy for achieving universal health coverage.  “The message is clear: It will be public healthcare for you, but private healthcare for those working in the state,” said Malan.

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