Can you afford to ditch your medical aid?

Having medical aid is something many of us sometimes take for granted. To  know you are covered for an unforeseen injury or disease can make life alot easier. Without medical aid a simple trip to a doctor can cost you R350, without the costs of medicine and additional expenses. A trip to the emergency room for an operation by specialist can set you back by hundreds of thousands of rands, if you do not have sufficient medical cover. Sean Binedell finds out if the cover you get from medical aid is worth the cost.

What are you paying?

In South Africa, a comprehensive medical aid scheme will set you back between R2 000 to R5 000 a month, depending on your wage bracket and the service provider you decide to go with. While a hospital plan will range from between R250 and R1500, the coverage is minimal and is only a viable solution if you are looking for a package that covers you in case of emergencies.

The noticeable trend in this country, among the middle class, is to go the medical aid route, because the belief is that private hospitals are the only solution. This belief  is also spurred by the horror stories  highlighted in the media about the deteriorating conditions of our public hospitals.

Who can afford medical aid?

Jonathan Broomberg, CEO of Discovery Health, highlighted statistics at the Hospital Association of South Africa (HASA) Conference held in Cape Town.

  • Nearly a quarter (22, 8%) of South African households had at least one member who belonged to a medical aid scheme.
  • A relatively small proportion (16, 1%) of the individuals in South Africa belonged to a medical aid scheme in 2011.
  • In 2011 the population of South Africa was 52 million. But only 8, 5 million people belonged to a medical in 2011. The rest are reliant on government facilities when it comes to their health.

The gap between a full comprehensive plan from Discovery and that of a basic hospital plan offered by Clientele can amount up to R30 000 less in fees a year. However, once you factor in the difference in costs of procedure covered by the individual plan, R30 000 doesn’t not seem like a lot of money. Medical aid can provide a financial lifeline in many cases where medical expenses start piling up. However the availability of government institutions does give you an option.

Could public health care be a better option?

Further statistics provided by StatsSA highlighted that not all government institutions are as bad as we think.

  • More than 70, 7% of households went to public clinics and hospitals first when household’s members fell ill or got injured. By comparison 24, 3% visited a private doctors, and a further 3, 7% visited private clinics or hospitals.
  • The study found that 83,6% of households that attended public health-care facilities were either very satisfied or satisfied with the service.
  • A slightly larger percentage of households that use public healthcare facilities (5, 4%) as opposed to private facilities (1, 3%) were very dissatisfied with the service they received.


Considering the above statistics the negativity surrounding puplic hospitals may not be entirely deserved. The negativity is no doubt influenced by the appalling conditions found in a few places around the country. It is evident that if you are in a financial position to afford medical aid for you and your family, then you should do so. The peace of mind it provides  in the event of a major medical emergency cannot be understated.
However, if you can’t afford medical aid, the key is to find a public hospital/service that works for you and your family. Just this week a four month old baby was allegedly turned away by Groote Schuur medical staff. Baby Mason Blauuw later died after his mother took him to Vincent Palotti hospital according to reports. To avoid tragic incidences it’s key to find a medical treatment facility that will cater to all your family’s needs.