Medical aid cover is considered essential these days as the cost of private health care continues to rise. Even the simplest of ailments can be financially crippling if you need to be hospitalized or require extensive tests and investigations. While the public health care system strives to meet the needs of the population, there is no denying that it is understaffed and overworked and the level of care is substandard at times.
Life without a medical aid is an unfortunate reality for some 40 million South Africans but the prospect of a national health insurance in the future is a glimmer of hope. However any prospective national health insurance system will be hard pressed to provide the level of care afforded by medical aid members.
Medical aids in South Africa are not cheap. While many employers do subsidise the monthly premiums, it can still burden the average household budget. Many South Africans cut back on even some of the necessities in life in order to pay for their medical aid, knowing the consequence of not having this cover.
Without medical aid cover, you can rest assured that you will not be admitted to most private hospitals unless you pay an exorbitant cash deposit upfront. Even in emergency situations, no medical aid means that you will be admitted to a public hospital even if you are initially taken into a private facility to be stabilised.
Should you be in the unfortunate circumstance of having been involved in a serious car accident or unconscious at the time of entering a private hospital, you will be unable to negotiate and pay for your stay at the facility even if you can afford it.
Apart from emergency situations, life with no medical aid means that you will always be on the edge about the possible consequences or complications resulting from any illness. Long queues, poorly stocked facilities and a lack of trained professionals is what you will have to face at a public hospital or clinic. Even if you are young and healthy, any eventuality may arise that may see you sitting in the reception area of your local government hospital.
Medical aid rates in South Africa start from as little as R250 per month (2010) and while this amount may not be affordable to some, there are many South Africans who can afford it but opt to go about life with no medical aid cover in the belief that they will not need private health care services. A medical aid may be an additional expense every month but you will only appreciate the importance of suitable cover once you are faced with a serious illness that requires extensive medical care.