CMS survey: Medical scheme members divided over funding vaccines for others

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Only half of South Africa’s medical scheme members back a government proposal that they help fund COVID-19 vaccines for non-members. BusinessLIVE reports that the results of a survey by the industry regulator reflect division within the medical schemes industry, which has yet to agree with the government on how it might help fund the vaccine rollout.

The most likely mechanism is that medical schemes will pay a premium on the price the government pays to vaccine manufacturers, but it is still not clear how the premium will be set.

The Treasury allocated R10.3bn for the government’s vaccination programme in the budget, but indicated in February that it anticipates some funding will come from the private sector.

BusinessLIVE reports that the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) conducted an online survey between 4 February and 8 March , and received responses from 75,518 people belonging to more than 30 medical schemes. The respondents included 4,162 members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) and 2,891 members of the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS), South Africa’s two largest medical schemes.

Overall, 53% of respondents supported the principle of cross-subsidising non-medical scheme members, 27% were opposed to it, and 20% were undecided.

BusinessLIVE reports that there was considerable variation in the support expressed by members from different medical schemes, ranging from a high of 75% among Parmed participants to a low of 25% among members of Profmed. Parmed is restricted to MPs and the judiciary, while Profmed is restricted to professionals. Profmed’s principal officer Craig Comrie has been a vocal critic of the proposal.

CMS head of policy, research and monitoring Michael Willie said there were ongoing discussions between the Board of Healthcare Funders and the Health Funders Association, the CMS and the government about vaccine funding.

 

The CMS survey also looked at the at other vaccine issues and found that: “The majority of medical scheme members want to get vaccinated, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as their preferred choice.”

The CMS conducted an online survey to gauge support for COVID-19 vaccination by members of medical schemes. The results of the month-long study, with over 75,000 participants, will be used to facilitate planning and communication strategies in the rollout of the vaccine programme.

According to Willie, the survey revealed that 71% of respondents trust the vaccine would prevent them from contracting COVID-19. “This tells us that there is a lack of awareness and information on what the vaccine can and cannot do, as we know that the vaccine does not prevent COVID-19, but reduces the chance of getting severe infection,” said Willie.

The study also assessed the main attributes of the participants who indicated intent not to get vaccinated. For 34% of respondents, the main reason for not getting inoculated was that the vaccines were too new, and they wanted to wait and see how it worked on other people.

They were followed by those who were worried about possible side effects at 21%, and 14% said they did not trust the government to make sure the vaccine was safe and effective. The three attributes accounted for just over two-thirds of all responses.

Accordingly, there was an almost balanced view on the awareness and information about COVID-19 vaccines, with 43% of participants saying that there was adequate awareness and information about COVID-19 vaccines , 41% feeling the opposite and 16% unsure.

 

Full BusinessLIVE report (Open access)

 

CMS material

 

CMS survey

 

 

See also MedicalBrief archives:

Medical scheme resistance to ‘unfair’ vaccine funding model grows

 

Profmed CEO: Unethical to make schemes bear brunt of vaccination funding

 

Discovery estimates that funding COVID-19 vaccines could cost medical schemes R7bn

 

Government briefs Parliament on SA’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans

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