Nicolette Dirk, finance writer, Justmoney.co.za
According to Hein du Plessis managing director at DebtSafe, the first area where you can safely skimp is on a medical savings account. He said that most savings accounts give you R1 in savings for every R1 you put in.
This means that you might as well pay day-to-day expenses out of pocket and opt for a hospital plan to cover you for serious issues.
“Many corporate companies offer medical aid or a 50% discount on your medical aid contributions. It is important to stick with the medical aid offered by your company as this is often cheaper than having your own. Through a closed scheme, you are often charged according to your income, but everyone gets the same benefits,” said Du Plessis.
Heidi Kruger, head of corporate communications for the Board of Healthcare Funders in South Africa, said that generally premiums are lower in restricted schemes and non-healthcare costs also tend to be lower.
However, if you have to pay for your own medical aid it is important to first shop around. Du Plessis said some medical schemes have high premiums, but also have a wider range of benefits for specific categories of treatment.
He added that some medical schemes partner with specific hospitals or doctors to offer reduced rates.
“Before you undergo any major medical treatment, call your medical scheme and find a doctor who charges medical aid rates,” said Du Plessis.
A hospital plan is also a good option if you cannot afford a more comprehensive medical plan. Kruger said that these days hospital plans cover more than just illness that requires hospital care.
“When it comes to hospital cover, make sure it is a hospital plan registered with the Medical Schemes Act. An insurance product is not registered through this act and therefore they don’t need to keep to the Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB). The PMB protects consumers against the high cost of medical care,” said Kruger.
PMBs are a set of defined benefits to ensure that all medical scheme members have access to certain minimum health services, regardless of the benefit option they have selected. The aim is to provide people with continuous care to improve their health and well-being and to make healthcare more affordable.
Other ways to cut medical care costs
The cost of medicine can also quickly erode your savings. You need to do your homework when it comes to buying expensive medicine, as prices vary drastically between different pharmacies.
“When you’re at the counter, be sure to ask if there is a cheaper generic version available. Generics have the same active ingredients as the original brand, but without the brand name. By doing this you can often save a substantial amount of money,” said Du Plessis.
Keep a record
Du Plessis said that when you have depleted your medical savings account you should still send all receipts of bills you have paid to the medical scheme. This way they will know when you have gone through your self-payment gap and the benefits could kick in again.
Kruger said that sending your receipts to your medical aid also prevents split billing. This is illegal and happens when a doctor sends a bill to the medical aid and sends another bill to the patient for co-payment without the knowledge of the medical aid.
For this purpose it is good to keep them informed by sending them proof of all your payments.
To apply for medical cover, click here