In recent years, the proportion of younger members on medical schemes has declined in South Africa. While many young people may feel that they have no need to invest in healthcare cover because they are currently in good health, this approach may result in unexpected consequences for their health and impact their pockets in years to come.
“The most recent annual report of the Council for Medical Schemes [CMS] highlighted a significant decline in the percentage of younger medical scheme members between 2007 and 2017,” says Health Squared Medical Scheme spokesperson Bianca Viljoen.
The report states that fewer than 5% of beneficiaries were in the age group 20 to 25 years in 2017, compared with just below 6.5% in 2007. In 2017 the age bracket 25 to 29 years constituted only 6.5% of total medical scheme membership in the country.
“It has been reported that millennials are, on average, also entering the property market at an older age than previous generations, which could be attributed at least in part to a tougher financial climate. This, taken together with the fact that younger people are also tending to delay getting married, if they choose to marry at all, could suggest that millennials are more cautious when it comes to making long-term commitments,” Viljoen surmises.
“There are, however, few long-term commitments that are as important as your health. While young adults may feel invincible, accidents and unforeseen illnesses unfortunately can and do occur. Those who have not invested in a hospital plan, at the very least, would not have access to private hospital care if they faced a medical emergency.”
“Those who are not yet familiar with medical scheme membership should be aware that if they have not belonged to a medical scheme before, or had a gap in their medical scheme membership for three months or more irrespective of which medical scheme they belonged to, they are not automatically entitled to Prescribed Minimum Benefit cover as they could be subject to waiting periods,” she notes.
“Young people are therefore advised that they cannot simply join a medical scheme when the need for healthcare arises. It is imperative that they join a medical scheme before such a need presents itself or else one risks finding themselves in a situation where they do not have access to funding for private medical care, and would need to either fund this themselves – an expense few can afford – or rely on public health facilities.”
Viljoen notes that the longer one procrastinates about becoming a member of a medical scheme, the more their healthcare may cost in the long run.
“If one delays healthcare cover until after the age of 35, then late joiner penalties are incurred on any medical scheme according to industry regulations. This means that when joining a medical scheme, your monthly contributions will be more expensive indefinitely if you have not been regularly contributing as a scheme member before the age of 35.
“This is yet another good reason to join a medical scheme as soon as possible and, with the excellent range of cost effective options available through Health Squared, there has never been a better time to join a medical scheme than right now.”
According to Viljoen, individuals who do not enjoy the peace of mind afforded through medical scheme membership are often more likely to delay seeking treatment when they have a health concern.
“Many health conditions can be treated more quickly and effectively when they are identified early. When people do not have healthcare cover that pays for doctors’ check ups, they may be less inclined to get the treatment they need. Unfortunately, this delay can result in complications or the development of more serious health concerns in the long run.”
According to Viljoen, the Flex Plus and the efficiency discounted Flex benefit options, which are among the most affordable and benefit rich options available in the industry within this category, are proving particularly popular with young professionals.
“These traditional benefit options, powered by Health Squared’s agreements with a wide network of designated service providers, offer extensive day-to-day benefits, unlimited hospitalisation and excellent maternity services. With cover such as this, members can take proactive care of their health and dental requirements, but are also prepared when they wish to start a family.”
Viljoen says that younger professionals tend to be astute in their selection of healthcare cover and look for the best possible value, taking into account the additional services and rewards linked to medical scheme membership.
All Health Squared benefit options are supercharged with the rewards and additional wellbeing services offered through Zurreal, the medical scheme’s rewards partner. Zurreal Assist includes free access to telephonic financial advice, health advice, legal assistance, and trauma counselling, and rewards include access to great discounts on travel, shopping, airtime and mobile data, among other benefits.
“The fact that young people are becoming increasingly empowered consumers, who spend time researching their options before signing up for healthcare cover, presents a welcome challenge to the medical schemes industry. With healthcare cover to suit every pocket and every stage of life, Health Squared is well positioned to appeal to younger members, ensuring they remain top of their game when it comes to health and wellbeing,” Viljoen concludes.
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