Meeting the cost of private healthcare can be a challenge even for those with a substantial income, and most South Africans are unable to do so without some form of insurance. To assist young adults who may be pursuing a course of full-time tertiary education who are covered by a family membership, it is often possible to extend their cover to apply beyond the age of 21. However, for those who may not have such an option, companies have found it necessary to introduce a more affordable type of medical aid product that is suitable for students.
For this purpose, schemes now offer the type of product known as a hospital plan. This should not be confused with the kind of cover provided by insurance companies under their so-called hospital cash plan policies. The latter simply pay a fixed sum of cash to the policyholder for each day that he or she is required to remain in hospital, and the accumulated total falls well short of the actual private healthcare costs incurred.
By contrast, the affordable medical aid product offered for students and other young adults have been designed to settle the majority, if not all, of their total bill. In both cases, cover only applies during those occasions on which a policyholder or scheme member is hospitalised during a given 12-month period. At all other times, the cost of GP visits and medication is for the account of the individual. Hence, premiums are lower than for more comprehensive products.
In this respect, the hospital plan is the perfect choice of affordable medical aid for students and others who, typically, are unmarried and enjoy sound general health, but who have insufficient income to meet the higher premium costs required for fully comprehensive cover. The occasional cough or cold can normally be overcome with one of the many cheap remedies available over the counter from a local pharmacy, but knowing that the cost of treating a major injury in the event of a motor vehicle accident or undergoing an emergency appendectomy will be covered is a great way for a young person to gain peace of mind.
The terms applied to affordable medical aid for students may vary between schemes, but one thing they all have in common is that they are obliged to cover the costs associated with the prescribed minimum benefits (PMB) mandated by the Council for Medical Schemes, even when these are not the reason for a member requiring to be hospitalised.
It is worth noting that insurance companies are under no obligation to cover PMBs in their cash plan products, and that some of the hospital plans proposed as an affordable medical aid option for students and young singles may offer benefits that others do not. For example, there are schemes that decline to cover the cost of medication issued at the time of discharge or of associated follow-ups as an out-patient while others are prepared to do so. It is, therefore, important to examine the terms and conditions of a product closely before committing oneself.
When searching for an affordable medical aid scheme in South Africa, many students now opt for the entry-level product offered by KeyHealth. It combines a comprehensive hospital pan with a number of valuable out-of-hospital benefits.