Should you join just for the rewards programme?
BY LIESL PEYPER
ARE THE REWARD PROGRAMMES OFFERED BY MEDICAL AIDS REALLY WORTH IT? OR SHOULD YOU RATHER OPT FOR A MEDICAL AID THAT GIVES COMPREHENSIVE COVER FOR MORE SERIOUS AILMENTS?
In t his day and age many big companies, from retailers and banks to life insurers, offer reward programmes as a means to retain clients, or to soften the blow of a grudge purchase.
In the medical aid arena Discovery, Liberty and Momentum wield the sceptre over reward programmes – and it’s no coincidence that they are also part of bigger financial services companies that also offer other products, such as insurance and investment services.
It is particularly this backbone that enables the three market leaders to offer reward programmes, as medical aids are by law not allowed to allocate members’ premiums for anything other than the medical aid-related expenses. If you belong to a reward programme, rest assured: your medical aid membership fee is not used to pay for reward programmes. Rykaart, an independent healthcare consultant at CureMED.
The state of your health, your age, marital status and whether you have children or not determine what type of medical aid is right for you, he says.
A hospital plan may be suitable for a young person in his or her early twenties, who has just started working, is relatively healthy and has a tight budget, but a father with young children who often need to go to a paediatrician would probably need more cover.
“People need to l ook at t heir healthcare needs holistically and make sure the medical aid they choose will cover them,” says Rykaart.
“Although a rewards programme is a nice to have, you need to ask yourself what your objective is. What benefits or risks need to be addressed? Take the time to ask the serious questions on benefits, such as what cancer coverage is offered. Do I have co-payments? Does the medical aid plan have any exclusions? Also make sure that you understand the structure of the plan you choose, and make sure when you claim your costs will indeed be covered.”
Hospitals are another example. “Read your contract carefully. In some cases medical scheme members are under the impression that they could go to any private hospital of their choice, meanwhile they’re only covered if they go to the scheme’s network hospital partner.” In a recent medical aids survey of the South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi), the network coverage option was mentioned as a reason for scheme members’ unhappiness. One of the reasons could be that consumers don’t understand t he co-payment aspect of net work schemes, Adré Schreuder, founder of SAcsi, said in a statement. A medical aid without a reward p r o g r a mme t h a t o f f e r s more comprehensive cover for chronic illnesses, or dreaded disease may be a better option in the long run. Do not forget that your first priority is to protect yourself from risk and do not sight of medical aid benefits.