Covid-19 Unmasks Dangers of Commodified Healthcare

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2086 ... May 12, 2020

Covid-19 Unmasks Dangers of Commodified Healthcare

Salimah Valiani

Covid-19 has been linked to a number of truth claims long made by activists in South Africa and around the world. Perhaps most glaring is the need for universal healthcare and fortified public healthcare.

Following the mid-March announcements of measures to deal with the pandemic and the global financial crisis, researcher Sameer Dossani argued that while universal basic income and other income supports would help boost flagging economies, Covid-19 reveals universal healthcare as the most important need.

More recently, researcher and writer David Hemson draws attention to the 4,960 critical care beds in South Africa’s private sector versus the 2,240 ones in the public sector. Hemson underlines that one of the most pressing questions is how the private beds will be used equitably as Covid-19 spreads to the uninsured majority in the face of conflicting claims from the minority with medical insurance.

Brought to the surface by the current pandemic, these issues beg for unity through a common analysis and popular mobilisation in terms... of solutions. For advocates and activists from a wide spectrum of political views -- Sibongiseni Dhlomo, Shehnaz Munshi and Oupa Lehulere, to mention a few -- National Health Insurance (NHI) is the solution for South Africa.

Deeper analysis that draws on medicines being used to treat the pandemic and decades of public healthcare experience in other countries, however, brings out the fundamentally flawed model of the NHI. The analysis is also relevant for other African countries in which public health insurance similar to the NHI is being designed and discussed.

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