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Medical Aid Schemes – Medical Aid Membership


Medical Aid Schemes are Far More Than a Necessary Evil

The cost of getting sick in South Africa is now at an all-time high and is increasing by 1% more than the general inflation rate each year. Should you find yourself suffering from an acute pain in the right abdominal region, the cost of the differential diagnosis followed by a routine appendectomy and a hospital stay could amount to almost R50 000 – well above the nation’s average monthly salary. A single CT scan alone could set one back close to R4 000. Sadly, despite the fact that local salaries are well below those paid in western countries, local healthcare charges are, in some cases, more than double those charged in these more affluent overseas societies.

On that basis, medical aid schemes have become for more than a mere nice-to-have option and, for the majority of South Africans, they are now an absolute necessity. In fact, this type of facility offers its members a far more practical and literal form of life cover than a conventional life policy – the opportunity to remain alive and well rather than to simply ensure that their dependents will receive adequate financial compensation in the event of their death. Last year, almost nine million people relied upon one of the nation’s 90 or so medical aid schemes as their only means to meet or to sufficiently subsidise their private healthcare costs in the event of illness or accident.

Of course, there was a time when the state-funded public healthcare service was able to meet far more of the needs of the nation’s sick. No less affected by rising cost than the private sector, the public sector services are provided free of charge to the unemployed while others pay only a nominal fee. Inadequate funding to compensate for the vast number of non-contributors has resulted in widespread service failure with more and more patients forced to contribute to medical aid schemes in order to help pay for private treatment.

Many of the nation’s employers have agreed that their staff members will be covered by a closed-group scheme, offering captive membership in exchange for discounted premiums, This, plus a contribution to the premium from the employer combined with tax relief on a percentage of the employee’s contribution, has served to make the cost to members less of a burden. For those whose companies offer no such group cover, or who may be self-employed, the sole remaining option is to join one of the country’s open medical aid schemes. Because the premiums tend to be a little higher and may lack the benefit of a contribution from an employer, it is important to be quite sure that a given product meets the needs of the member and his or her dependents as completely as possible when making a selection and not to be influenced by the monthly premium price alone.

Often the price of a product is inflated by the inclusion of non-core benefits that have more of a role as a means to encourage membership than in meeting healthcare expenses. KeyHealth strives to design value-for-money products that focus solely on providing realistic core benefits that are affordable and directly relevant to the needs of South Africans.