• Butsi Tladi, MD of Alexander Forbes Health

A need for healthy collaboration, rather than turf wars, over COFI Bill

Those involved in the healthcare sector have long advocated for a single regulator, believing that the current dual regulatory framework creates a regulatory arbitrage not conducive to offering the consumer maximum protection. As part of the submission to Competition Commission’s Inquiry into Private Health and Department of Health’s NHI Bill, the Financial Intermediaries Association strongly advocated for the end of dual regulation.

Butsi Tladi, Managing Director of Alexander Forbes Health says the public and private healthcare sectors need to work together for South Africa to achieve universal healthcare.

“The same applies to our government departments and regulators. A silo approach to these complex issues will only serve to detract the process and delay progress. The dual regulation of participants in the medical scheme industry is not ideal, and in some areas creates conflict.”

The Conduct of Financial Institutions Bill (COFI) Bill, aimed at regulating how the financial services industry treats its customers, was published by the Minister of Finance in December for public comments until Monday April 1. The Bill advocates removing core regulatory functions from the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) and placing them with the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA).

Tladi says medical schemes are a form of insurance, “… even the CMS acknowledges this in their submission on the COFI Bill. Greater alignment is in the interest of the industry. Because of the varied nature of insurance products, including health insurance products, The FSCA has had to develop a depth of skill to regulate this dynamic industry.

“Had we appreciated this fact, and allowed the best suited government entity to spearhead our National Health Insurance efforts, we would have made far more progress,” she says.

It is also clear to Tladi that the FSCA’s ability to regulate market conduct of financial institutions is more advanced. In fact, CMS already refers compliance relating to conduct toe FSCA for consideration.

“Through related legislations such as the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act, FSCA has proven that it is far more capable of managing possible conflicts of interest in the provision of independent advice to consumers.

“The COFI Bill approach is refreshing in that it sets out the specific intention of the law, rather than setting rules for compliance. Compliance with the spirit of the law, rather than narrow technical compliance will be important. If we appreciate the efforts of the Competition Commission’s Inquiry into Private Healthcare, then we must welcome efforts that support and facilitate better competition and innovation. Furthermore, COFI aims to promote financial inclusion and transformation, particularly that of emerging black-owned financial institutions.”