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Consumers ditching pricy medical aid

Nov 29 2012 11:31
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Cape Town - One in four people can no longer afford to pay for medical aid, according to a flash survey among users of online financial guide, Justmoney.co.za.

As the price of medical aid premiums rises by an inflation-busting average of 9.11%*, adding to the cash woes of many consumers, the poll found that 25% of people have been forced to abandon their healthcare scheme because it has become unaffordable.

Yet despite the rising cost, just over half the people polled - 52% - admit that they never ‘shop around’ or haven’t reviewed their medical aid in five years to find out if they can get the same benefits but pay cheaper premiums.

The poll found:

  • 35% of people have never shopped around for cheaper medical aid
  • 17% of people have not reviewed their medical aid for at least five years
  • 25% of people can no longer afford to pay for their medical aid
  • 23% of people shop around for cheaper medical aid annually

Angelique Ruzicka, editor of Justmoney.co.za, said: “The Justmoney.co.za poll proves that the soaring cost of medical aid is forcing many people to give up vital health cover because they don’t have the money to pay higher premiums.

“The problem has been worsened by the fact that the majority of people don’t review their medical aid cover and don’t shop around to find more cost-effective schemes. It is vital for South Africans to shop around for medical aid and other financial services. Not only does it help them save money, it also sends out a strong message to providers that they cannot continue to escalate their prices and expect to retain their customers.

Now is the right time to hunt around for quotes and find the right deal for you and your dependents. Then you can give your medical scheme enough notice. Usually they require a month’s notice so if you want to change your scheme from the beginning of 2013 it’s best to act now.”

Ruzicka adds that it’s important for people to seek the advice of an independent broker and compare at least three different medical aid policies. “The medical aid market has changed a lot in recent years, so consumers need the help and advice of a qualified medical broker to review their circumstances and recommend the most cost effective cover for their situation.

Top seven medical aid tips

  1. Review your medical aid regularly: Your circumstances or needs may have changed so your current scheme may not be cost-effective anymore. Shop around for quotes from at least three different schemes and compare features and costs.
  2. Scrap the lifestyle benefits: If you aren’t making use of the gym memberships and other lifestyle options that cost you extra, then ditch them.
  3. Consider a hospital plan or downgrading: You can’t afford the comprehensive cover but you are healthy as an ox. Consider a hospital plan instead, particularly if you don’t visit the doctor that often and have no dependents. Alternatively, if you are healthy and have easy access to your schemes network facilities then consider joining your medical aid or another’s network scheme. The costs can be lower but you are only allowed to use doctors and hospitals linked to that network.
  4. Create your own savings account: If you don’t visit the doctor that often then put the money into an investment account instead of your medical savings account. That way you will gather interest on the funds if you don’t make use of them.
  5. Understand your scheme: What are the benefits and restrictions? Get to know your scheme well and ask your broker if you don’t understand the jargon on your contract.
  6. You are not always subject to waiting periods: If you are changing options, for example, then medical schemes can’t impose a waiting period. However, if your previous waiting period hasn’t finished then it could still apply.
  7. Don't confuse a hospital plan with a hospital cash back plan: As seen on TV a hospital cash plan pays you per day spent in hospital, and not for hospital expenses.

*Source: Alexander Forbes, correct as at 21/11/2012

 

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