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Medical scheme membership in South Africans is closely correlated with employment, i.e. most South Africans cannot afford medical aid premiums without support from their employers. If you are employed but do not have the benefit of a medical aid, your best chance of becoming a member of a medical scheme is to lobby your employer. Many employers have given up participation in so-called restricted medical schemes in favour of “total cost-to-company” remuneration packages where employees have to provide for their own health cover. Your union might also be able to encourage your employer to consider subsidising a medical aid for the benefit of all employees.
2. Use an independent medical aid broker
You may consider consulting a medical aid broker to advise you on the most affordable options for you and your dependants. Be aware that some brokers are affiliated with medical aid schemes, while others operate independently and will give you more objective advice. Medical aid brokers have to be accredited with the Council for Medical Schemes, and while their advice is free, you are not obliged to follow their recommendations.
3. Ask your doctor
If you can’t trust your doctor, who can you trust? Well, that may not be the case in every instance, but it certainly won’t hurt to ask your General Practitioner or another medical service provider about their experiences with medical aids. They are likely to know about medical aids that are slow in settling claims, contest claims or apply many limits and exclusions to their benefits. While your doctor is not a financial adviser and probably not able to give you a complete rundown of options like a medical aid broker could, he or she will most likely be able to give you an honest opinion about a medical aid that you are considering joining.
4. Read the newspapers
Medical aid schemes feature quite prominently in the business sections of newspapers, not surprisingly, since these companies represent a billion rand industry, and since health cover and medical costs form a substantial monthly expense for a great number of South Africans. By following the developments in the medical aid industry in the newspapers, you will quickly gain an understanding of the relevant issues pertaining to health cover and you will also get some insight into which medical aid companies are financially sound and which are experiencing difficulties. In recent years some medical schemes in South Africa have been placed under curatorship or been liquidated. By keeping an eye on what is happening in the industry, you will be better able to judge which medical schemes are sound and offer good value for money to their members.
5. Use the internet
The internet is a great source for researching affordable medical aid schemes in South Africa. On the websites of the various medical schemes you will be able to compare benefits and contributions of the different packages, and also request a specific quote.