Medical aid companies are not offering payment holidays during the current coronavirus health crisis.
People are struggling to cope due to a loss of income, some businesses have shut down completely, while many employees have had to endure salary cuts as companies fight to stay afloat.
South Africa’s major banks have offered customers who qualify a three-month payment holiday, while consumers are also counting on their insurance on products like loans and credit cards, to kick in.
Insurance company Outsurance has also come to the party, announcing a 15 percent reduction in premiums, but medical aid suppliers, some of which charge up to R5 500 in monthly premiums per member, have not offered any payment breaks.
Discovery Health is the largest health insurer in South Africa, turning an operating profit of R3.8 billion last year.
Unfortunately, their clients will not benefit from premium reductions during the Covid-19 crisis.
Gugu Yika, a reputational management consultant at Discovery, would not confirm if the company would consider a payment holiday for clients, but said: “Discovery is implementing a range of solutions across its insurance products for clients to provide flexibility and support to qualifying clients so that they can continue their cover at this critical time.”
He did not elaborate on these solutions, but added: “We are currently awaiting approval from the Council for Medical Schemes for premium relief options for the Discovery Health Medical Scheme.”
Momentum Health said they are also awaiting guidance from the Council on whether they could assist clients but in the meantime are pushing resources towards government efforts in fighting the coronavirus.
Spokesperson Penelope Shandlale said: “Momentum has committed additional resources to help the government in curbing the spread of Covid-19.
“This follows recent financial commitment to support the Health Department and South Africans in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
“The service will not only allow citizens access to quality advice when they need it but it also prevents the sick and potentially affected South Africans from transmitting the virus in health facilities around the country.”
On 1 April, in a communication to its members, Bonitas medical aid said while they are aware that many members’ employment conditions will be affected adversely during the lockdown, they could not afford a “blanket payment holiday with full cover”.
“Such a payment holiday will not only have extreme adverse consequences for the solvency of medical schemes, but will also contravene the current prevailing Scheme rules and Medical Scheme Act, and can therefore not be considered at this point in time,” it said.
“The Bonitas Board is however continually monitoring the circumstances to ensure that decisions are made in the best interest of all members aligned to the rules of the scheme and regulations.”