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Jan 24, 2022

Financial pressures are affecting everyone and taking steps to cut down on monthly expenditure is a great way to free up more of your money for the things that matter. One of the biggest mistakes you can make, however, is to cancel your medical aid all-together in the process tightening your pocket.


While it may feel like you’re giving a big chunk of your salary away every month for something you almost never use in the year (how many dentist appointments or trips to the GP do you really need, anyway?), a medical aid plan that includes in-hospital treatment is a must.


“Millions of people in South Africa are struggling financially. We know that the pandemic is the biggest culprit of this. However, medical aid is the one thing people should not compromise on, particularly now as the looming fourth wave faces us,” warns Bestmed’s Madelein Barkhuizen. “Based on claims over the last two years, the average cost of hospitalisation and treatment for Covid-19 patients is around the R85,000 mark. This can easily run into the hundreds of thousands in hospital bills, which is where medical aid makes a major difference.”


This doesn’t mean that you can’t take measures to cut down on the total cost of medical aid. Here’s a helpful guide to save money without compromising your future health and wellbeing.


Consider downgrading – not cancelling


Many South Africans have decided to change their plans to suit their pockets, opting out of comprehensive plans in favour of more cost-effective options available to them. These range from entry level plans for low to relatively high salary earners, to plans with ‘savings’ or out-of-hospital accounts that are provided for from a portion of your total medical aid contribution.


“Hospital plans remain the most popular and attractive option for people whose day-to-day medical needs are fewer and further between than South Africans living with chronic illnesses and disease,” says Barkhuizen. “Depending on the medical scheme you choose, a hospital plan gives you full cover for planned and unplanned hospital stays, allowing you to manage any out-of-plan day-to-day medical needs as you need.”


Ditch the stuff you don’t need


While loyalty and rewards-based programmes offer some attractive benefits, like free or discounted gym memberships or cashback on fuel spend, most people don’t take full enough advantage of these programmes to justify the monthly cost of their memberships.


If you aren’t quite meeting those daily step or fitness goals to rack up those rewards points, cancelling the extra expenses that these programmes bring is a good idea. You can always sign up again in the future if you wish, or do your homework and take advantage of free wellness programmes and inclusive benefits available with existing plans.


Mind the gap

No matter how comprehensive your medical aid plan, it’s always a good idea to have gap cover to take care of the payment shortfalls. For those will ‘full cover’, there are other considerations to keep in mind, such as the cost of MRIs and CT scans, which can run well over your allowed annual limit.


Gap cover can be a financial lifesaver, especially when it comes to footing the bill once your medical savings have run out (self-payment gaps) and minimising co-payments. If you’ve opted to downgrade your plan, gap cover is usually affordable and an essential to ensure you don’t end up with too many nasty surprises once the bill comes.


“While you can join another medical scheme at any time of the year, changes such as upgrades or amendments to your current plan can only take place in December for most medical aids. Make sure you take the opportunity to review your current plan, consider your hopes for the coming few years like new additions to the family, and make an informed decision about a medical aid plan and scheme that’s right for you,” says Barkhuizen.

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