iDSI caught up with Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy Director-General for Communicable and Non-communicable Disease, Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation in the National Department of Health in South Africa, ahead of the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR) symposium in Liverpool next month.
1. You are a panel member in the sub-session, ‘Design of Health Benefit Packages’ during the HSR 2018 satellite session on Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), co-hosted by Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Swedish Government and iDSI. What do you believe your experience will bring to the discussion?
I have been coordinating the process to define benefit packages in preparation for implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI) in South Africa for the past two years. NHI is our version of UHC and aims to address historical inequalities by bringing the public and private sector into a unified national health system. As I have been responsible for health programmes in South Africa for the past 10 years this was a good fit. I think I will benefit as much from the discussion as I think I can contribute based on our experiences in trying to design benefits in a rather complex environment – with a large private health sector and many medical insurance companies and administrators.
2. What are Health Benefits Plans and why are they important?
Health benefit plans define the services that will be available within a health system and should cover all levels of care, from community based services through to highly specialised care. This is important for at least two reasons: (a) certainty on what services are offered; and (b) ensuring that these services are funded.
3. What have been the challenges in development of the benefits package in South Africa?
An initial challenge has been the wide range in standards and guidelines relating to service delivery in South Africa not just across the public and private sector, but also across disease areas. We are addressing this as a priority to ensure a common understanding of acceptable quality of care prior to costing. Other challenges include: (a) availability of data, including epidemiological data, (b) limited or fragmented health technology assessment capacity in the country; (b) political pressure to include all services currently available – even in the context of limited resources; (c) and the designing of a transparent process by which to prioritise services and revise the package over time.
4. If you weren’t in the healthcare field, what would you be doing instead?
Human rights lawyer!
Conference delegates can attend the session, called ‘Health financing towards UHC’ from in conference room 13 from 8.30am on Monday 8 October as part of HSR 2018 of which the overaching theme is ‘advancing health systems for all in the Sustainable Development Goals era’.
Find out more at www.healthsystemsresearch.org/hsr2018