[Opinion] Lack of medical cover a significant financial risk.

According to data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), more than 80% of South Africans are living without medical aid. The percentage of people living without medical aid is not less than 75% in each of the 9 provinces. In poorer provinces, people generally have limited access to medical cover, while the opposite is true for better-off provinces. Limpopo, at 91.9%, has the highest proportion of people with no medical aid, followed by the Eastern Cape, at 90.1%. The  Western Cape, at 75% has the smallest percentage of people living without medical aid.  

Owing to such low levels of medical aid coverage, the majority of South Africans are exposed to unprecedented medical costs. Many people have to pay exorbitant amounts in out-of-pocket healthcare  costs where state facilities are inadequate, resulting in debt or delving into savings. 

Moreover, the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) recently won its bid to stop the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) from continuing to allow Discovery to sell its low-cost Primary Care health insurance plans, thereby blocking an expansion of low-cost benefit options which could have been affordable especially to low-income earners. 

Tawanda Makombo, analyst at the Centre For Risk Analysis (CRA) notes: “it is no surprise that the majority of South Africans do not have medical aid, as they simply cannot afford it. The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown led to business closures, job losses  and an overall downturn in the economy, forcing many to resort to several cost-cutting measures. Termination of medical aid memberships will likely be among the many casualties of this austerity. 

Article by Tawanda Makombo

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