Medical aids in South Africa are not cheap but the number of medical schemes with different plans and options will contain an affordable medical aid that is right for you. It is not a matter of joining the ‘best’ medical aid. All medical aids offer various plans which are similar. The decision you make for your medical aid option depends on your health care needs as well as your budget.
The first thing to remember is that there is no super cheap medical aid out there. You get what you pay for. In order to find an affordable medical aid, you have to do some careful financial planning and a needs assessment. By counting your pennies and being realistic about your needs, you can find a medical aid that is affordable for you.
Medical Aid Budget
Before you look for an affordable medical aid, first review you monthly budget and decide upon what you can afford. Health care is expensive but paying for your medical aid every month should not break your budget. Most medical aids will advise that you do not join a plan that will cost your more than 10% of your gross income. Remember that you will get a small tax benefit for having medical aid cover so you should factor this in as well. If you have a large family and many dependents, then your medical aid can be costly and you may cross this 10% budget.
Medical Aid Health Benefits
Next you should decide on what your health care needs are or may be. If you are young and healthy, then chances are that you will not need a comprehensive out-of-hospital cover. It is risky to only opt for a hospital plan only without any day-to-day benefits but if your budget is tight, then a hospital medical cover is better than no medical aid. Also ensure that your medical aid plan will provide chronic cover, especially if you have young children who have conditions like asthma or older dependents with serious conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Medical Aid Premium Protection
Lastly, you have to be sure that you can cover this medical aid premium every month. Failing to pay for even one month can cause your cover to lapse and once suspended from your medical aid, any medical bills accrued during this time will not be paid for. You should have at least 2 months medical aid premiums saved up so that if you are unable to work or if your salary does not come into your account on time, your medical aid premiums can still be debited from your account. Some medical aids offer special cover so that your medical aid premium is still paid if you are retrenched or fall ill and unable to source an income.
Once you have taken all these factors into consideration, it is now time to contact different medical aids and get quotes. You can use a medical aid broker and many short term insurance brokers also do medical aid quotations. Alternatively you can contact each medical aid on your own or download their prospectus and read through each. Compare medical aids objectively. Do not get carried away with extra benefits and unnecessary perks if you cannot afford it. Stick to your budget, be realistic about your needs and don’t always look for a cheap medical aid. Learn to be a bit thrifty in ways that will not cost you on your medical cover.
An affordable medical aid will still offer extras – for example, some schemes where you only have to pay for one or two of your children and the others are covered for free. Don’t fall into the trap of buying hospital cash back plans and other insurance policies offering medical benefits. These are not medical aids and you will not have comprehensive medical cover when you need it the most.