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Medical Aid – Best Medical Aid Options for Students


What are the Best Medical Aid Options for Students?

Just as living at home with mom and dad offers the most economical way to ensure a roof over their heads and regular meals, enjoying the cover provided by a parent’s medical aid, as a dependent member, is also one of the best possible ways for students to shield themselves from the high cost of healthcare. Individuals who are under the age of 18 are precluded from main membership status and can only be covered as dependents. In this context, the definition of a dependent is generally taken to mean a child under the age of 21, but also covers those who remain financially dependent upon a parent, generally up until the age of 26, but sometimes longer, depending on the rules of the scheme. Cover may be extended indefinitely where the young dependent remains unable to work and requires support for reasons of a physical or mental disability.

In practice, the main member need not be a parent but could be any relative or even a family friend if they are willing to undertake the responsibility. For a variety of reasons, however, it may not always be possible for a young person to take advantage of dependent status and so many of South Africa’s medical aid schemes have had to explore ways in which to provide more affordable healthcare cover for students. Any such solution must clearly come at a cost and although minimal, this means that a member will need to have a regular source of income.

Since many of the young individuals who enrol in tertiary education tend to take part-time jobs, or may be pursuing some form of vocational studies whilst on the job, they will generally be able to manage a modest monthly premium even in the absence of parental support. Assuming that their general health is good and that they have no other significant financial obligations, a hospital plan could prove to be a perfectly adequate and cost-effective means to cover any significant healthcare costs.

It is important to note, however, that a hospital plan is not a fully comprehensive product and does not provide a member with year-round cover for multiple contingencies. In practice, with very few exceptions, the cover extended by these products, including the prescribed minimum benefits mandated under the Medical Schemes Act, will only apply during those periods when the member is required to undergo treatment as an in-patient. However, given that the cost of emergency surgery or treatment following a severe accident could amount to a 6-figure sum, while the cost of an occasional GP visit or prescription charge is comparatively trivial, a hospital plan can be a good medical aid option for students or any young, single, and generally healthy person with a limited income.

Perhaps, at some time in the future, it may be possible for a prospective member to nominate a monthly premium amount that they can afford and, within that proposed budget, to select the required benefits according to their personal relevance. Until such time, however, there are few options that are as flexible, affordable, and focussed on essential core benefits as the KeyHealth range of medical aid products, and that include cover suitable for students.