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Women’s health issues on the medical scheme agenda

23 August 2021 CompCare Medical Scheme
Dr Simangele Nkosi, General Practitioner and Trustee of CompCare Medical Scheme

Dr Simangele Nkosi, General Practitioner and Trustee of CompCare Medical Scheme

Women: Back yourself and take control

Bearing the brunt of increased responsibilities at home alongside growing workplace pressures due to repeated lockdowns has placed the economic progress of women under threat.

Against this background, having a wellness check may seem like a luxury for some. However, according to Dr Simangele Nkosi, general practitioner and trustee of CompCare Medical Scheme, it is now more important than ever for women to assert their power over their health.

“Women’s health issues take an alarmingly prominent seat amongst some of the most serious medical conditions in South Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the two most prevalent cancers in the country occur in women, with breast cancer as the number one cancer affecting 13.2% of South African women and cervical cancer following closely at 12.1%.

“Furthermore, the WHO sites cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in women globally. So often these conditions can be prevented or successfully treated if detected early on,” she says.

Dr Nkosi notes that women find themselves experiencing additional strain on an ongoing basis with the majority of household duties and caregiving falling to female partners and mothers who, in addition, also manage workplace demands. The economic fallout from the pandemic may also mean that many women are more vulnerable to retrenchments and demotions due to increased commitments at home.

Leveraging preventative and wellness benefits
“As a woman and a medical doctor, I am all too aware of the dangers facing those who have put their own health near the bottom of the priority pile. Prevention is unquestionably better than cure and belonging to a medical scheme that offers a comprehensive bouquet of routine health benefits is a good start.

“An essential component for women’s health includes taking care of reproductive health including contraception and that all-important annual pap smear, as well as access to the HPV vaccine, which is key in helping to prevent cervical cancer. Better still if members don’t have to dip into their savings to fund this and other preventative treatments.

“Further to this, scheduling annual health check-ups and maintaining a balanced lifestyle is directly linked to reducing the chances of developing preventable lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Access to a fitness and nutritional programme with an assessment from a biokineticist and registered dietitian supports healthy choices.

“Looking after your body can go a long way towards helping you to manage increased stress levels. However, for those who are taking strain, a psychosocial counselling benefit can be a lifesaver. All the better if this benefit can be paid from risk, so members are never left out in the cold when it comes to their mental wellbeing,” she says.

Good family health benefits essential for mothers
Dr Nkosi points out that women who are pregnant or who have children rely heavily on maternity and family healthcare benefits, with excellent kids benefits that offer value over and above standard baby wellness and childhood immunisations, being particularly helpful.

“Mothers know all too well that the active pursuits of their children can result in the need for an additional emergency room visit, while unlimited GP visits for kids under the age of six are most beneficial in those immunity-building years. An added bonus is to have the option of an occupational therapy assessment, exercise prescription programme and healthy eating plan, so that women with children do not have to feel as if it all rests on their shoulders,” she says.

“And while none of us would ever wish to imagine receiving a positive cancer diagnosis, there is great peace of mind in knowing that you have access to an unlimited cancer care benefit should you ever find yourself in that unfortunate position.”

Financial fitness for the female decision-maker
Dr Nkosi makes the observation that as decision-makers and often as breadwinners, women are increasingly conscious of the need for financial wellness as part of the overall health of the household in this strained economic climate.

“A scheme offering a wide range of benefit options provides a solid base for the decision-maker so that healthcare needs can continue to be met without sacrificing financial wellbeing.

“However, this is not enough. A thorough review of a medical scheme should reveal a stable solvency ratio and while South African medical schemes are only required to maintain a solvency ratio of 25%, a higher percentage translates to lower annual increases and contribution rates, an excellent indicator of value for money.

“Ultimately, women are well practised when it comes to facing challenges head on but when it comes to our health, it’s good to know we have someone in our corner to back us up,” she concludes.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

As National Treasury mulls a two-bucket retirement system, mandatory contributions and preservation, regulation 28 is being amended to allow up to 40% of retirement fund assets to be invested in SA-based infrastructure… Which of the following retirement fund ‘tweaks’ would you consider most beneficial to your clients?

ANSWER

Give fund members emergency access to retirement savings
Let fund members invest 40% in infrastructure
Let fund members invest 40% offshore
Mandatory preservation when resigning from a fund
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