The opportunity to travel abroad is a major feat for many South Africans and can quite easily be a lifetime highlight for some. However, it’s important to ensure that you have the correct medical cover in case of any medical incidents or emergencies.
Without international medical cover, your already expensive trip can turn into an expensive disaster. Let’s take a deeper look into South Africa’s medical aid options and whether or not they are sufficient for international travel.
International Medical Benefits
Most medical aids in South Africa have the option for international cover but are often limited. The international component of the cover is often outsourced to partners like Europ Assistance and ER24.
Main members and their dependents will receive cover from the date of departure for up to 90 days which covers only medical emergencies. The cover is also limited per trip to between R5 million and R10 million.
In the case of evacuation or repatriation emergencies, the cover may be extended past these limits. Be aware that international cover may not be included on entry-level plans such as Bonitas’ BonCap option or Discovery’s KeyCare Series of plans.
What do you need to know before International Travel?
Firstly, check if your medical aid plan offers international benefits for travel and what is included and excluded from the cover.
Often the following exclusions for international benefits exist- cover for pre-existing conditions, healthcare excluded by a waiting period, high-risk adventure sports, and general exclusions that are listing in the terms and conditions of your plan.
If you know you are going to be participating in any high-risk sports on your trip, consider applying for top-up benefits that will cover you in these circumstances.
The Claims Process
If your emergency requires expensive procedures, surgery or a long hospital stay, first acquire authorization from your medical aid as well as a payment guarantee that the travel partner will cover your medical needs. They should make payment directly to the medical service provider.
In the case of a less expensive emergency, you will be expected to pay the service provider and claim back from the medical aid once you have returned to South Africa. A co-payment may be applicable in these cases.
For these claims, you will need to submit the original account, proof of payment and a copy of your passport showing entry and exit stamps from the country where you received medical care.
Cover by SA’s Top medical Aid Schemes
While most schemes do offer international cover, you’re more likely to get the best cover from these top providers:
1. Discovery Health
Discovery Health will cover you for up to 90 days and will cover up to R10 million per person per trip. Unfortunately, patients on the KeyCare Series are not eligible for international cover benefits.
As the largest medical scheme in the country, their international travel partner is ER24. Additionally, their international benefits also cover evacuations from specific countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Bonitas offer international cover for in and out of hospital care on all plans except the BonCap plan. You will receive cover for 90 days and is limited per trip to R5 million per person or R10 million per family.
Besides, their travel benefits include dental and optical benefits as well as for mandatory vaccinations required to travel and emergency transportation and evacuation.
3. Momentum Health
Momentum Health offers travel benefits in partnership with Europ Assistance for international travel. All of their medical aid plans come standard with international cover.
You are covered for 90 days with up to R5 million per person for a single trip, which includes emergency transportation as well as evacuation and repatriation if necessary. For treatment costing more than R5,000, you are required to obtain authorization from the scheme first. Besides, all claims are subject to a R1,300 co-payment by the member.