SA insurers may fund vaccines for broader population

Government, medical insurer collaboration could help fund vaccines for about 30% of SA, in addition to supplies expected from Covax initiative: Discovery Health CEO.
Image: Shutterstock

South African medical-insurance companies, business organisations and the government are developing a programme in which the private sector will help fund Covid-19 vaccines for people not covered by insurance.

Legislation has been amended to allow the companies to fund shots for people who don’t have medical insurance and talks are now focused on the number of those who may benefit, said Stavros Nicolaou, head of the Health Workgroup for Business for South Africa, a grouping of South Africa’s biggest business organisations. In addition to medical insurers, companies such as miners may contribute funds so their workers can be covered, he said.

“We are looking at a model of some cover for uncovered patients,” he said in an interview on Monday. “For every funded person, there will be a contribution to the unfunded.”

The talks come as South Africa’s government faces increasing criticism by labour unions, health officials and opposition parties for its failure to procure vaccines even as at least 33 nations begin inoculating their populations. The country has yet to conclude any direct supply agreements with pharmaceutical companies. It expects to begin receiving shots in the second quarter to cover a 10th of its about 60 million people through the Covax initiative, which is trying to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

As of 2019, 17% of South Africa’s population was covered by medical insurance, according to the national statistics agency.

South Africa, with 1.11 million confirmed infections and more than 30,000 deaths, is the nation in Africa worst affected by Covid-19.

Allowing medical insurers or companies to import vaccines solely for their own members or employees could spark tension in South Africa, which is one of the world’s most unequal societies. The government is already struggling to meet a host of economic challenges, with many state companies dependent on bailouts from the budget.

Discovery Chief Executive Officer Adrian Gore is heading a panel that’s discussing how the programme will work. The company is South Africa’s biggest medical-insurance company.

30% Funding
The collaboration between the government and medical insurers could help fund vaccines for about 30% of the population, in addition to supplies expected from the Covax initiative, said Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach. That means funding still needs to be sought for about 27% of the population to reach Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s vaccination target of about two-thirds of residents to achieve herd immunity.

“That fundraising effort is still under way,” Noach said in an interview with Radio 702. “I think corporate South Africa is certainly going to come to the party.”

Momentum Health Solutions, one of the nations biggest medical insurers, is working with the authorities to ensure vaccines are made available to the most at-risk members of the population, marketing head Damian McHugh said Tuesday. FedHealth, another large insurance provider, said it aims to have all its members vaccinated by the end of 2021.

FedHealth is “comfortable that it will be able to cover the cost of the Covid-19 vaccine in 2021 from risk for all its members without impacting its 2021 financial budget,” the company said in an emailed response to questions.

Estimates show the cost of vaccinating medical-insurance company members in South Africa could total about R7 billion, or just under 2% of gross contributions received, Noach said. The estimate includes logistics costs and will be influenced by final pricing, the vaccine mix and prevailing exchange rates, he said.

Discovery Health Medical Schemes has already set aside money to aid its members with vaccines.

Business is also trying to accelerate the arrival of vaccines in the country, Nicolaou said.

“We need to change the public narrative,” he said. “How do you, if at all, accelerate the timing?”

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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We have a country run by proxy.

When your government is so incompetent that private industry have to perform its responsibilities.

The issue is also one of inequality; how someone that is not paying is getting the same benefits as those that are paying. If I recall; the contributions in a medical scheme is owned by the members and not the administration — so funding non-members would be a violation on many levels, including property rights etc.

It seems that to “save face” from looking completely incompetent — government will lean on private businesses.

You must also remember; come election time, they will claim it a victory for equality etc and fairness… when they actually failed and were saved by the “evil” private sector.

Then there will be talk of establishing failed initiatives; like a “state run bank” and more SOEs as if that is actually working (idiots)

Its, another sad inditement of the ANC of not accepting their responsibility to the citizens of this Country.
Further proof that the proposed NHI will be an unmitigated disaster.

But comrades, at least we have a state airline, and we all know that having a loss-making airline is far more important than mere human lives. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the majority of the voters who continue voting for the ruling party. You are such geniuses. We’re not worthy.

We may all end up voting for the ANC if the EFF becomes a likely alternative !!!

I’d rather die of Covid and go to heaven than vote for the ANC!

It is proving rather expensive to many anc voters to have voted for these anc beggars.

The cost is your life and strangely they will continue voting for them.

Will vaccine work in SA?? Don’t think there are enough people that would allow themselves to be vaccinated by the anc to get to heard immunity level and I suspect that’s why everybody else is involved.

You then think about “big business” is SA. Will you allow the likes of Old Mutual, Steinhoff or maybe an ABSA to vaccinate you??

Not going to work I dont think.

I seem to remember the ANC being gifted $4 billion from the IMF a few months ago, of no strings attached Covid 19 assistance. Enough for 400 million doses. They only needed to set aside 12% of that to vaccinate the whole country… heck 2% of that would have cut it for the clinically vulnerable… I guess Daimler and Range Rover SA having another knock out year again in 21′

…not forgetting Cartier, Louie Vuitton and Moet?

And Johnnie Walker Blue.

As a Taxpayer and a payer of premiums towards a Medical Scheme, this is extremely worrying.

Governments handling of taxes are well known. Refer to the Zondo Commission of Enquiry and you’ll see the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe Medical Schemes want to ensure funds are actually used to pay for the vaccines. Further, if they do not pay for the vaccines, their own cash reserves will suffer much more when COVID 2.0 builds up a head of steam.

Effectively they’re saving themselves whilst the Government is re-saving SAA – not that SAA won’t go bankrupt again.

Then our Parliamentary Health committee is happy with the anc vaccine rollout plan????

This is a country of just plain dumb people.

There is just absolutely no leadership or competence in this government. For some time a vaccine has been on the cards. A decent government eg Israel ,would have a combination of funding and execution systems long in place and be subject to one variable only ie supplier supply.

The vaccine..compared to an hour in an ICU is cheap! A combination of government, medical aids, large pension funds etc could have pooled funds to create a vaccine fund..but no there is simply incompetence and an opportunity to steal along the way..and ensure that you insult the developed world while kissing China who really do not care about anything or anyone in Africa..except its resources.

If the Medical Aids allow the pooled funds of their members to be used to fund medication or services for anyone but members, it will be the beginning of the end for private medicine. Covid is Mkize’s trojan horse to get government’s hands on this vast pool of private funds, which they eye avariciously. Today it will be “morally right” and a sign of “social solidarity” to help fund Covid vaccines. Tomorrow it will be Aids, TB, diabetes, whatever, and members’ contributions will be spent on everyone but themselves.

Meanwhile, near 50% of respondents in the latest Ipsos poll indicated that they won’t take the vaccine. Thanks to science illiteracy and the reach of social-media lunatics we have massively reduced the odds of achieving herd immunity.

Apparently the new SA variant of covid may be resistant to the new crop of vaccines. Before blowing the cash will someone check the efficacy level?

Buying the Vaccines is only one small part of a much bigger picture. There is not a hope in hell that logistically, Government will be able to roll out the prick(s) in the arm, impossible for them to do this in a structured and managed way. The opportunity for looting and grabbing will rear its ugly head. This is certainly where the private sector will be able to add value.

It might be beneficial for the Insurers to provide a vaccine for every member for free even if it were to cost R1000 or R2000 per member.

The insurers save on not having to pay for Death Claims, retain their members and keep the economy going.

The Tax payer is saved also.

A win win for everyone.

Of concern is not whether medical aid members will get the vaccine, of concern is that their pooled funds are being expropriated without compensation, to benefit non-members. Next are our pension funds, probably followed by our homes and savings.

Prediction : arranging vaccine other than through the government program will be outlawed soon

Be careful Discovery…my contributions to your company are there to fund MY medical expenses and are neither held by you to facilitate your populist and cheapskate pandering to the marxist anc, who are the masters of their own failed and racist revolution, nor a complimentary slush fund fund for your self serving advertising campaigns and aggrandisement!

Again be careful and respect your paying members!

End of comments.

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