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South Africans have shown “enormous interes” in the much-criticized National Health Insurance (NHI) bill, Parliament said on Friday.

The country needs a healthcare system responsive to the needs of all South Africans, irrespective of their economic and social standing, said Sibongiseni Dhlomo, chairperson of the parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health.

Dhlomo said South Africans, non-governmental organizations, political parties and stakeholders have made both oral and written submissions on the NHI bill.

Friday marked the last day for the submission of written contributions on the bill to Parliament.

“While the deadline for written submissions is today, the committee will continue to receive oral submissions,” Dhlomo said.

The bill, tabled by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to Parliament in August, envisages free medicare for all South Africans, including inmates, refugees, and permanent residents.

Critics say the financing model of the bill will mean the imposition of a new tax on ordinary South Africans.

Several political parties and many bodies, including the South African Private Practitioners’ Forum, have voiced skepticism about the bill, calling it unrealistic, too expensive, and would potentially damage the healthcare sector, particularly when the country is facing a financial crisis. Enditem

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