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Millions of South Africans without healthcare cover

Health • by Ryno Ellis

Statistics recently published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) show that millions of South Africans aren’t covered by a medical aid or basic healthcare provider.

According to the report, out of South Africa’s population of over 54 million people, only 17.4% are covered by a South African medical scheme. This means that only 9.5 million South Africans have access to private medical care while more than 44 million don’t.

Private quality healthcare roughly refers to easy access to general practitioners (GPs), dentists and medication. Having access to adequate medical cover can drastically improve the quality of life and life expectancy of a person.

The leading barrier to private healthcare in South Africa continues to be the price.

The millions of South Africans living without medical cover put increasing pressure on the public health system.

Data provided by government-owned website, www.southafrica.info, reveals shocking statistics about South Africa’s private healthcare sector.

The website explains that South Africa has over 4 200 public health facilities, with an estimate of 13 718 people visiting each clinic. This is extremely high, as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines indicate that public health facilities should not exceed 10 000 people per clinic.

Medical insurance is an affordable alternative to the many South Africans who cannot afford medical aid cover. Medical insurance comes at a much lower cost, providing members access to quality healthcare cover.

It’s important to note that medical aid differs from health insurance and should not be substituted for the latter. Medical insurance offers stated benefits and a formulary that may or may not cover Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB).

More medical cover statistics:

• Seven in every ten (70,5%) households opted to go to a public clinic or hospital as their first point of access if they felt ill or sustained an injury (General Household Survey [GHS] 2015).

• Public health uses almost 11% of the government's total budget (www.southafrica.info).

• The amount of medical aids in South Africa that are registered is 110, with more than three million principal members (www.southafrica.info).

• It’s estimated that South Africa’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme will be phased in over a period of 14 years, starting from 2012 (www.southafrica.info).

• South Africans visit a public health facility on average 2.5 times per year (www.southafrica.info).

• Up to 73% of general practitioners (GPs) in South Africa work in the private sector (www.southafrica.info).

• On estimation, there’s one practising public doctor per 4 219 people (www.southafrica.info).

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