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Exciting new possibilities in the offing for SA healthcare consumers

15 June 2021 National HealthCare Group
Dr Reinder Nauta, Executive Chairman of National HealthCare Group

Dr Reinder Nauta, Executive Chairman of National HealthCare Group

For the past 18-months healthcare systems the world over have been tested by what can be described as one of the greatest healthcare catastrophes of the modern world. Healthcare pundits are in agreement however, that apart from the tremendous toll on human lives, some positive changes have been sparked with new possibilities opening up.

“South Africans can prepare themselves for significant changes in the healthcare funding environment with service and price seeing substantial improvements while the current wide selection of product choices on offer will continue to shrink substantially,” says Dr Reinder Nauta, Executive Chairman of National HealthCare Group, a provider of choice in the low-cost and emerging segments of the healthcare market.

“The hardships faced on the healthcare front have prepared the ground for the introduction of several fundamental private sector initiatives aimed at providing cost efficient healthcare services to a far larger spectrum of the population.

“While some of the more established schemes may find these changes hard to digest, newer entrants in the market are proving themselves as being more agile and innovative and better positioned to harness the many new opportunities that have opened up for well-balanced, more affordable healthcare products.

“In fact, the healthcare market has never been better placed for the introduction of new healthcare models that comprise a blend of first world healthcare delivery and systems appropriate for our country its people,” asserts Dr Nauta.

Despite the medical funding industry’s many attempts to design and offer products for the low-income market, the sector has continued to struggle to broaden healthcare access by offering at least some basic form of healthcare insurance to hard-pressed healthcare consumers. Indeed, just how the industry can successfully provide cover to more South Africans is a question that has vexed some of the most brilliant minds in the healthcare funding sector for close on three decades. In an effort to resolve the healthcare dilemma of the lower income market the government has moved steadfastly towards a national health insurance system.

Dr Nauta says the healthcare-funding environment has leapfrogged in the past year and is becoming increasingly simplistic and practical, with more basic products being launched in the market. “Newer, highly sought-after healthcare products offering user-friendly, clear-cut healthcare solutions with a strong primary healthcare and technology bias and an emphasis on value for money and convenience is what it is now all about.

“In May last year National HealthCare Group took a leap forward with the introduction of MediClub ConnectTM an innovative service using mobile communications and chat commerce technology. This application of technology represents the latest in a series of groundbreaking primary healthcare solutions that we have introduced to bring the benefits of private medical services to the low-cost segment of the healthcare market.”

According to Patrick Lubbe, chief executive officer of the National HealthCare Group the product differentiates itself through delivering healthcare to the palm of the hand using a mobile phone and a series of WhatsApp prompts to pinpoint potential healthcare issues.

“The low-cost, WhatsApp-based primary healthcare service provides members with online interactive access to doctors and nurses on WhatsApp, physical consultations with doctors on referral, and all prescribed medication along with other key services for a maximum of R95 per employee per month.

“The service is ideal, particularly in times like these, as it gives members an affordable and effective way to connect with a health professional from home,” he comments

Lubbe says that the tech-savvy yet simple solution was launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to fulfil a considerable need for more accessible healthcare and empowering individuals to monitor their health closely.

“More than a year down the line the product has been well received by South African companies for their employees. One of the first companies to introduce the benefit into the workplace was fast-food chain, Hungry Lion, which signed up approximately 3 000 staff members across South Africa. These staff members previously relied on government healthcare services, but now have access to professional advice, referrals to general practitioners and medication where needed,” notes Lubbe.

Dr Nauta explains that the National HealthCare Group advocates a fresh approach outside of the traditional medical scheme or healthcare insurance models, whereby employers subscribe to the services of a network of GPs for a nominal administration fee of R45 per employee per month.

“The marked cost difference we have achieved was made possible through a well-structured product combined with our particular pay-as-you-use model, which includes an 11,400-strong national, contracted network of general practitioners, pharmacies, radiologists, pathologists and other healthcare service providers and was pivotal in terms of affordability and outcomes,” says Nauta.

“With our MediClub allowance model, which is underpinned by negotiated discounts on healthcare services including doctors, pathology, medicines and radiology, and a specially negotiated basked of services delivered by general practitioners the history of medical cover in the lower segment of the market has been re-written,” he concludes.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

Healthcare brokers have long complained about inflation-plus medical scheme contribution increases; but pandemic may have changed things. What will pandemic-induced changes in hospital utilisation do to medical scheme contribution increase patterns?

ANSWER

Below inflation increase for 2022, then back to inflation-plus
Long-term trend of below inflation increases
Inflation-linked hikes for 2022, then back to inflation-plus
This is a 2-year hiccup, inflation-plus increase trend remains in place
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