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SA medical schemes to fund Covid-19 vaccines

For 30% of adults.
Image: Bing Guan, Bloomberg

Millions of South Africans will have their COVID-19 vaccinations subsidised by medical schemes that pool health insurance premiums through an agreement with the government, a top medical scheme administrator said.

Under the arrangement, medical schemes will pay above cost for doses for their members – roughly 7 million adults over the age of 15 – subsidising procurement for another 7 million adults who are without private medical cover, Ryan Noach, chief executive of the country’s largest medical scheme administrator, Discovery Health, said.

In all, vaccines for around 30% of the country’s adult population would be financed by the agreement.

Africa’s most advanced economy aims to vaccinate a minimum of 67% of its population against the coronavirus to reach herd immunity, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Sunday.

But it is yet to start vaccinating or receive its first doses, and some local health experts and trade unions have publicly criticised the government for moving too slowly with its vaccine strategy.

Noach told Reuters on Wednesday that the cost to medical schemes of buying the vaccines could reach a maximum of R7 billion but may be much less. That was “completely digestible”, he said, since it represented less than 2% of gross annual premiums.

Many medical schemes ended 2020 with large surpluses because non-coronavirus related healthcare was drastically reduced during the pandemic, he added.

“What’s important is the funding is there, and we’ve got to secure offtake of the vaccines,” Noach said.

South Africa intends to procure its vaccines centrally, and negotiations with vaccine manufacturers are being handled by the government. Local health regulator SAHPRA is yet to approve any vaccines for use but has said it will fast-track applications.

Apart from the agreement with medical schemes, the government plans to source vaccines for 10% of the population via the COVAX Facility, a global vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization. It is talking to large local businesses about contributing funds towards the remaining vaccines it needs to procure.

Noach said the arrangement between medical schemes and the government would not affect profits at Discovery Health, part of Johannesburg-listed financial services group Discovery, because the administrator earns a fixed fee to look after its medical schemes.

It made sense from both humanitarian and economic angles in that it would save lives and cost far less than another national lockdown, he said. ($1 = 15.0788 rand).

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It’s all very well to say the medical aids will subsidise the vaccinations but that is so far from the truth that it is a stupid statement. The real funders of the vaccine through the medical aids will be its members. This clearly illustrates the absolute incompetence of the government no matter what they touch or even institute

Those surpluses are supposed to used to reduce the premiums of the medical aid … not to help non-members. This is a theft that the government and medical aid administrator is performing… as the pooled funds belongs to its members.

Expropriation without compensation. Next it will be our pension funds.

Agree 100%. Medical Aid funds belong to the members, not the trustees, government or anyone else. The government must pay the cost of vaccines for non members. This is their responsibility. They had no problem giving 10 billion to defunct SAA to save a few jobs! I would like to know if it is legal to expropriate members funds without their permission? I will be raising this with my medical aid.

The Government to pay for vaccines? With taxpayers money. In the end the taxpayer is going to pay for it, one way or another.

Have heard an (anecdotal & unconfirmed) story from a close friend that he’s aware of a person who passed away in a vehicle accident recently.

A few thousand rand was offered by the hospital(or the powers that be) to the grieving family, to allow for the deceased’s death to be recorded as “Covid-related”.

The surviving family was poor & they accepted the offer.

And there we have it folks, one more official Covid-19 death!

What/Who is behind this?? Hope this story is unfounded.

Sorry Michael, but that sounds like nonsense. The second wave is really bad and hospitals are full. Here in Kimberley we have gone from 4 patients before New Year to full capacity and counting. No need to falsely report Covid let alone pay for it.

Thanks Griet. Must’ve been (unfounded) hearsay, as suspected.

Anyway, Saffas can fight this if we all “pull together”, yet distance ourselves sufficiently…apart.

Greetings to everyone within Sol Plaatjie city (Frances Baard District) and blessings from us in Dr Kenneth Kaunda District, Matlosana city.

SA is fortunate that the NHI scheme hadn’t been implemented before this pandemic. Because what is now considered a “surplus”, would’ve been a “deficit”…and any donation made towards the procurement of vaccines would be looted before a single dose could arrive on our shores.

Noble scheme but somebody needs to take control of the vaccine procurement, supply chain and roll-out away from government or more than half those 7 million doses will be wasted.

Fanfare again for ANC which again sees a way our for their incompetence.
As for Discovery and other medical aids there is no thought given to the many over 65s who can no longer afford medical aid. Some of us have paid our dues faithfully for years and now when the going gets tough medical aids discard them. In my complex there at least three pensioners who have discarded their medical aids.
Further I would like to ask Discovery how come members of other medical aids are charged a lower amount for such procedures as doppleer tests etc. I queried this last year as my partner who is part of Fedhealth was charged for two leg dopplers half the amount that I as a Discovery member paid for one doppler. When I queried this and after many long phone calls< I eventually received a phone call from someone who promised to give me an explanation. Still waiting!!!!!!! Quick way to empty a member's spending account!!!!!

Your medical aid, subsiding SAA.

End of comments.

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