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Role of intermediary critical to healthcare reform

15 July 2008 The Financial Intermediaries Association of South Africa (FIA)

In her opening address at the BHF conference yesterday the Minister of Health, Mantu Shabalala Msimang, referred to a wide range of initiatives to improve the governance of private medical schemes.

Linza van Aswegen (pictured), chairperson: executive committee and FIA healthcare, Financial Intermediaries Association of South Africa (FIA), believes that financial intermediaries will continue to play a critical role in terms of facilitating this healthcare reform, “Organisations such as the FIA act as a crucial sounding board for both the industry and government decision-makers. Because intermediaries interface directly with consumers they provide vital insights into what consumers require from their medical schemes, and how products and services can be made to meet their needs even better. This makes them an invaluable source of strategic advice in terms of driving reforms that benefit the consumer.”

While Shabalala Msimang cited increased costs in the sector as a source of concern, van Aswegen says that recent research published by the Council of Medical Schemes has confirmed that broker fees are not a cost driver, “Independent brokers add enormous value to the private healthcare industry, enhancing products and services thanks to the feedback they receive from consumers. In the same way, the FIA hopes to enhance government understanding of the private healthcare sector – one of the reasons we have already requested an audience with the Minister of Health as a matter of urgency. We’re also currently in discussion with the office of the Registrar of Medical Schemes relating to the value-adding role of the broker.”

Positive engagement with all role-players would therefore seem the way forward for the healthcare sector. By involving all stakeholders – including intermediaries – Government will deliver on its commitment to empowering the sector, and ensure South Africans become that much healthier.

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