Patient Groups admitted as ‘friends of the court’ in Genesis Medical Scheme v Minister of Health
4 August 2015
On 29 July 2015, Judge Blignault of the Western Cape High Court handed down a judgment allowing various parties to intervene in the case of Genesis Medical Scheme v Minister of Health.
In September 2014, Genesis Medical Scheme launched an application against the Minister of Health, asking the Western Cape High Court to review and set aside regulations that provide for the prescribed minimum benefit (PMBs), which are made by the Minister in terms of the Medical Schemes Act (“Act”). The Minister has not opposed the litigation.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) and People Living With Cancer (PLWC) have been admitted as amici curiae (friends of the court) and will have an opportunity to argue that the PMB regulations are not only lawful but are necessary to give effect to the right to access health care services.
PMBs include 270 medical conditions and 25 chronic illnesses. These include HIV, TB, hypertension, diabetes, a range of mental health conditions and various forms of cancer such as breast cancer and cervical cancer.
The PMB regulations have drawn public attention recently because of the Minister’s proposal to amend the regulations.
The court allowed a range of parties to intervene as respondents in the case, including:
Hospital Association of South Africa, Council for Medical Schemes, Registrar for Medical Schemes, B Braun Avitum (Pty) Ltd, Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Africa, Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa and the South African Private Practitioners Forum.
The court acknowledged that this is an important public interest case and held that:
“The relief would probably also affect the availability of healthcare services to many members of the public.”
The court therefore recognised the benefit of having the broad spectrum of views from the interested parties given that the Minister has not defended his powers in terms of section 67 of the Act. The judge said:
“In these circumstances it is desirable that Genesis’ attack on the validity of Regulation 8 be properly defended. Applicants to intervene further propose to lead evidence which would be representative of the vantage point of each of them.”
TAC, SADAG and PLWC welcome the judgment, in particular, the willingness of the court to engage the full spectrum of interested stakeholder on this important issue, which concerns the constitutional access to health care services for everyone.
For more information:
Umunyana Rugege, Attorney, SECTION27 011 356 4120