The World Health Organisation (WHO) was founded on 7th April 1948, and this date is celebrated every year as World Health Day, with the goal of drawing attention to a specific global health concern.
Last year, the focus of the campaign was to mobilise action with regards to depression, and the theme for this year will be “Universal Health Coverage: everyone, everywhere.” The slogan and hashtag behind the 2018 drive is #HealthForAll, and the aim is to encourage and support countries to provide quality Universal Health Coverage for all citizens.
It is vital for leaders to understand the importance of investing significantly in human capital, as access to quality care not only improves people’s health and longevity, but it also prevents outbreaks of epidemics, and creates jobs, which in turn alleviates poverty and drives economic growth.
The World Health Organisation supports the principle that all people should have the right to live their life in good health. According to the organisation’s website, the Director-General said that “no one should have to choose between death and financial hardship. No one should have to choose between buying medicine and buying food.”
As WHO is also celebrating a notable rite of passage this year — its 70th anniversary — it is calling on world leaders to follow through on the pledges they made in 2015 when they agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals. From a South African perspective, it is important that we now commit to taking the concrete steps necessary to protect and ameliorate the health of all citizens.
Turning the spotlight on South Africa
Although South Africa does have a public healthcare system, it would be fair to say that it is severely lacking and is often unable to provide the quality of care, equipment, skill and service that citizens need and deserve. And unfortunately, the country still has issues with deadly outbreaks of diseases such as malaria, HIV, rabies and, most recently, listeriosis. These diseases particularly affect the poor, and highlight systemic failures in providing secure shelter and proper sanitation to many South Africans.
Having some form of private medical cover in South Africa is, therefore, still an arguably unavoidable and expensive necessity if you wish to have access to quality medical treatment if the need arises. According to statistics released by the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS), by the end of 2016, there were 82 medical aid schemes operating in South Africa, with a total subscription of just under 8.9 million members; and Discovery remains the country’s largest medical aid provider, with currently over 2.7 million members.
According to an article published on Business Tech, “over the past decade and half, the average year-on-year increase of medical scheme contributions has been 7.6%”. However, due to the country’s recent political and economic turmoil, many people’s salaries have not increased in line with this each year, and many citizens are feeling the financial strain of keeping up with their contributions.
As a result, some people have started looking for cheaper options, which is known as ‘buying down’, and the popularity of hospital plans is on the increase due to its affordability. However, this could have a significant impact on your health and future well-being, as certain schemes do not cover patients in full. Even if it is stated that hospital procedures will be covered 100%, this may mean that you will only be paid out in full for the tariffs that are specified by your scheme, rather than 100% of the actual treatment costs.
For example, if a specialist charges more than your scheme specifies, which is common, you will have to pay the balance yourself, which can be financially crippling. As a result, many South Africans also opt to pay for Gap Cover to cover any differences in rates, and this is yet another cost that must be budgeted each month.
A brighter future
However, the future is looking bright for South Africa now that Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected president and Jacob Zuma has left the building.
According to an article published by Eyewitness News, Ramaphosa has spoken frankly in the past about the country's ailing health system and “has urged the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to take on government, and challenge officials to do more to improve the healthcare system.”
Now that he is president, it is essential that he doesn’t neglect the issue of National Health Insurance (NHI), which is an important implementation that would improve the lives of millions. The urgency of structural change to resolve the country’s crushing inequality should be at the forefront of our new leader’s objectives and, as citizens, it is up to us to collectively push for the right of everyone to have access to quality healthcare — #HealthForAll.
In the meantime, take the time this global awareness day to ensure that you understand the benefits and potential implications of your medical scheme. Rather than opting to ‘buy down’, research your options and don’t skimp on appropriate coverage if you can afford not to.
Don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to discuss how you can ensure that you and your family are always fully protected in the event of any unfortunate circumstances - get the best advice and make the right choice..