Is your medical aid a viable choice for the long run? Ask these questions to find out
Here's how to gauge if a medical scheme is responsible, sustainable and has its members’ best interests at heart, says Medihelp
The medical aid industry has evolved tremendously over the last two to three decades.
Several factors have made it difficult for medical schemes to survive: regulatory oversight, SA’s socioeconomic landscape, the deteriorating public healthcare sector, the absence of a national tariff structure, the advent of medical insurance, and the Covid-19 pandemic, to name a few.
The impact of these factors is evident in the numbers. In 2000, there were 144 medical schemes in SA. This number reduced to 76 in 2020, and now only 71 remain.
In this day and age ... medical schemes have to increase their focus on excellence, while making responsible decisions to remain both relevant and competitiveJohan Viljoen, acting principal officer of Medihelp
“In this context, it’s easy to conclude that if you’re still around after more than a century, you most definitely have been acting responsibly,” says Johan Viljoen, acting principal officer of Medihelp. “If you have been in the business for 118 years, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have done everything right, but I do believe it means you’ve done most things right.
“In this day and age, fake news, dubious businesses, and overall bad client service mean that medical schemes have to increase their focus on excellence, while making responsible decisions to remain both relevant and competitive.”
To gauge whether a medical aid is a viable choice for the long term and always acting in the best interests of its members, there are five main questions you should ask:
1. Does the scheme offer what consumers need and want?
First, no scheme can be all things to all people. A responsive medical aid should have a clear sense of its identity, its offerings, and its desired target market.
For example, benefits such as chronic medication, knee and hip replacements, and hearing aids are traditionally important to older members. But these aren’t what most young people want.
So, if a scheme wants to attract people fresh out of university, the benefit design and service offering must speak to their needs. Its marketing and communication must also match its target market: the scheme should engage with the youth through digital channels, social media platforms, apps and online chat facilities.
2. Does it have a growth strategy?
The age-old proverb that there’s safety in numbers is aptly applied to medical schemes. It’s a known industry fact that the people who need less cover subsidise those who need more cover. And for that, you need members in large numbers.
But as much as growth ambition is an important factor to consider, a growth-at-all-costs strategy may cost a scheme dearly in the long run. If a medical scheme grows with healthy members who claim less than they contribute, it’s in a much better position to stay sustainable into the future.
3. Does it manage its funds responsibly?
Providing sufficient cover to its members for access to quality medical care, making this cover as affordable as possible, and ensuring the long-term financial stability of the medical scheme is a continuous, delicate balancing act.
No explanation is needed why a scheme must manage its expenses effectively so that, above all, it can protect its solvency ratio and ability to pay claims.
4. Does it manage its risks effectively?
The biggest cost driver for a scheme in respect of healthcare expenditure is hospital costs. To remain sustainable, a scheme must manage its risks by implementing managed care initiatives and negotiating tariffs.
By successfully keeping its members healthy and out of the hospital, it can reduce healthcare expenditure significantly. This allows the scheme to keep annual contribution increases low, leading to robust membership growth, which ultimately contributes to long-term sustainability.
5. What are the scheme's service standards?
A responsible scheme makes sure its service levels are always excellent. It knows how its members and all other stakeholders want to engage with it and makes this happen. And it employs client care consultants that are knowledgeable and helpful.
“A responsible, sustainable scheme is thus one that provides products that offer quality healthcare solutions to contribute to the overall wellbeing of members, are affordable, and drive member growth and retention, while effectively managing its risks to reduce costs. And they deliver a service that wins industry awards,” says Viljoen.
Note: Medihelp’s service was rated as the best in the medical aid category of the 2023/2024 Ask Afrika Orange Index, SA's largest and longest-standing customer experience benchmark.
Visit the Medihelp website to find out more about the medical aid plans it offers.
This article was sponsored by Medihelp.
Medihelp is an authorised financial service provider (FSP No 15738).