Medical schemes have announced their 2017 premiums, with most declaring increases in double digits. While the average increase is higher than consumer price inflation, the increase to members is dependent on their scheme and their specific plan. With many South Africans feeling financially strained, it’s essential that they get the most value from their medical scheme.
“The economic climate at the moment is uncertain, which is proving to be a financial challenge for most South Africans. A significant portion of a family’s household budget goes to paying for medical schemes and so a double-digit increase is hard to swallow,” says Sujeeth Bishoon, Executive Head at Acuideas, a division of Indwe Intermediary Support Services.
The increases are linked to medical inflation, which can be between 2%-5% higher than the consumer price index. This isn’t unique to the country, but is rather a global practise. There are many different reasons for this, including: rising costs of importing medical equipment, increases in healthcare service provider fees, the falling rand and higher private hospital costs. In addition, there are more people now who are fighting diseases like cancer, and this means more members using more benefits.
“While the increases across the entire medical industry are done to keep schemes sustainable against these rising costs, the result is that cash-strapped members want to switch medical schemes or look for more affordable options within their scheme. It’s important that people not make rash decisions but rather check that they are getting the greatest benefit from their contribution,” says Bishoon.
Medical schemes can be confusing to understand, and this is why Bishoon recommends that members speak to their broker to ensure that they are on an appropriate medical plan. He gives the example of a female member who has extensive maternity benefits on her existing plan but after deciding to not have children, she didn’t change her medical plan to reflect this.
“A broker can compare their client’s current medical scheme benefits and exclusions, and help them decide on a plan that is best suited to their individual needs. Through Acuideas, brokers can provide not only the correct information, but also the most cost-effective solution that will fit in with their client’s budget and family responsibilities,” concludes Bishoon.