The number of medical-scheme beneficiaries remained virtually unchanged for the past seven years with high unemployment and lack of government intervention said to be keeping membership out of reach of a steadily increasing slice of the population. The trend is revealed in the 2017-2018 Council for Medical Schemes annual report, tabled in parliament last week. There were 8.87-million medical-scheme beneficiaries in 2017, compared with 8.53-million in 2011 while the population grew from 51.55-million to 56.84 million, according to Stats SA. The percentage of the population covered by medical schemes fell from 16.55% to 15.61% in this period. “The lack of growth in medical-scheme membership indicates its lack of affordability,” said Wits University professor Alex van den Heever. The declining proportion of the population belonging to medical schemes reflected the poor state of the economy and the government’s failure to take steps to make membership more affordable, he said. “There is...

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