Medical scheme membership becomes unaffordable to many

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Medical scheme membership has become unaffordable for an increasing proportion of the population since 2012, as high unemployment and the rising cost of private health care take their toll. Business Day reports that the proportion of the population belonging to medical schemes declined from 16.4% in 2012 to 15.4% in 2018, according to its analysis of data published by the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) and Statistics SA.

There were 8.916m medical scheme members in 2018, according to the CMS 2018-19 annual report, tabled in parliament last week, a modest 2.7% growth on the 8.68m medical scheme members recorded for 2012. Over this period, the population grew 9.4%, from 52.93m to 57.94m, according to data from Stats SA. “Medical scheme membership is highly correlated to income and employment, and so the proportion of people not on medical schemes is a reflection of the low employment in South Africa, Insight Actuaries joint CEO Christoff Raath is quoted in the report as saying.

Wits School of Governance professor Alex van den Heever said making medical scheme membership more affordable would require a new regulatory framework, as proposed by the market inquiry. CMS head of stakeholder relations Grace Khoza said the biggest factor affecting medical scheme membership is the state of the economy.

Business Day report CMS Quarterly report

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