Is it Wise to Purchase the Cheapest Medical Aid?
With the Rand hovering around its lowest levels against hard currencies in its history and record-breaking unemployment figures, affordability has become the main criteria among South Africans when contemplating any new purchase. While this may be an understandable and even a wise move if the proposed acquisition happens to be a motor vehicle, a flat-screen TV, holiday accommodation or some other luxury item, the tendency to skimp on matters relating to one’s health and that of one’s family is disturbing. Nevertheless, even some of the cheapest medical aid products are now beyond the reach of many South Africans.
The industry is neither unaware of the problem nor unsympathetic to the hardship that it can often cause. In response, most schemes have attempted to develop products that are more within reach of the nation’s average employee. However, for those who are unemployed or whose income falls below the national poverty line, the overburdened and underfunded state health service, with its never-ending queues and year-long waiting lists, provides their only option. If it were not for the availability of medical aid to provide support for private treatment, albeit not the cheapest solution, those queues and lists would be far longer and the future of a non-contributory, public healthcare service seriously threatened.
So, in the age where computer aided tomography (CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cardiac transplantation and other modern miracles have driven treatment costs to unprecedented highs, how can one hope to ensure that a lengthy spell in hospital, or living with diabetes or some other chronic illness will remain affordable to as many patients as possible? Quite simply, the only answer lies in providing them with the cheapest medical aid products that are, nevertheless, sufficiently comprehensive to meet the most likely needs of the main member and his or her dependents.
If one were to make this decision based purely upon price, and many people do, the obvious choice is likely to be a hospital plan. While these products are sufficiently comprehensive to cover the major part or even all of one’s expenses as an in-patient, once discharged, the average hospital plan offers no cover at all. This means that those with chronic illnesses can receive none of the prescribed minimum benefits mandated by the Medical Schemes Act 131 of 1998, except when hospitalised. If you suffer from epilepsy, diabetes or one of 23 other named chronic conditions, this could be a vital consideration when choosing what is undeniably among the cheapest forms of medical aid available to South Africans today.
Incidentally, should you decide to purchase the product known as a hospital cash plan from an insurance company, this will be even cheaper. However, the prescribed minimum benefits mentioned earlier may not necessarily apply even when you are hospitalised, as insurance companies are not bound by the act.
There are, of course, other ways in which to reduce the premium costs and eliminating certain benefits while reducing the maximum amount covered by others is a common strategy. Unlike other schemes in South Africa, KeyHealth offers a product that combines the very best of the hospital plan with some important day-to-day benefits like specialised dentistry. Although not the cheapest medical aid option, we provide both more comprehensive and more affordable cover than rival products.