Those who can afford private medical care, must brace themselves. Medical-fund premiums are going to keep on raiding their pockets. It is still unclear whether the envisaged cheaper medical-fund option will offer a workable alternative.
According to a recent report released by the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) medical-fund membership is on the decline. One of the reasons for this is medical funds’ ongoing battle to attract younger members. In addition, the medical expenses of older people, who claim more often than younger people, are higher than that of younger people. The number of people who claim from medical funds is therefore growing faster than the funds, which explains why the increase in medical-fund premiums have exceeded the rate of inflation since 2002. However, according to the CMS this is a worldwide trend.
Dr. Elsabe Kruger, spokesperson for the CMS, says there are mainly two reasons why younger people in general do not belong to a medical fund. “In general, young people are healthy and they don’t see any need for belonging to a medical fund. Secondly, younger people, who normally earn smaller salaries, struggle to meet the medical-fund premiums,” Kruger explains.
Kruger explains that the proposed low-cost options offer a workable solution to those who cannot afford a medical fund. “It will, however, mean that medical funds will have to be released from certain minimum requirements. The CMS is currently busy studying the low-cost option and has already sent a first letter in this regard to medical-fund companies,” says Kruger. “We feel that younger people will definitely give the low-cost option favourable consideration,” Kruger explains.
If the low-cost option is implemented, it will mean that an adult could get medical cover, details of which are not yet clear, for as little as R200 a month. However, it will be up to the medical funds to apply for exemption from certain minimum requirements and to make the low-cost option available to their members.