Tuesday, 28 September, 2021
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Fear of public hospitals may be a cause of buoyant membership for Discovery and Medscheme

Discovery Health and Medscheme, contrary to market expectations given poor economic conditions and the trend at many other medical aids, are reporting membership growth among their client schemes, reports BusinessLive.

Fear of landing up in an under-equipped state hospital with insufficient staff and possibly unhygienic conditions as the COVID-19 pandemic rages is probably one major catalyst.

In 2020, when the coronavirus wave first struck the country, the Council for Medical Schemes, stepped in to cushion the financial blow for consumers and capped premium increases for 2021. Many schemes were able to hold contributions steady or keep them to low single-digit increases because they had accumulated reserves in 2020 as patients deferred non-urgent care and claims dropped.

“We’ve seen an unbelievable growth in Discovery Health Medical Scheme since December,” said Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach. The growth in medical scheme membership was primarily among individuals seeking cover, rather than among businesses adding to their pool of subsidised employees, he told BusinessLive.

Medscheme, the country’s second-biggest medical aid administrator, which is owned by JSE-listed Afrocentric, had seen a similar trend. “People are holding on to medical aid for dear life,” said Afrocentric CEO Ahmed Banderker.

Medscheme has 3.9 million lives under administration, with Bonitas and the Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems), which covers public servants, among its clients. Medscheme provides managed care services to Gems and had seen growth of 5,000 lives in this part of the business since January, Banderker told BusinessLive.


Full BusinessLive story – Consumers holding on to medical scheme membership despite weak economy (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Medical scheme membership becomes unaffordable to many


Lagging middle-class incomes hurt medical scheme take up


NHI Bill 'won't be a silver bullet' in saving public healthcare in SA


Rising healthcare costs: The problem is not doctors and hospitals


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