Medical schemes pressured to make provisions for Covid-19 vaccines

With more than 1,54 million officially diagnosed cases of Covid-19 in South Africa and more than 52 000 relating deaths, pressure has been placed on the country’s medical aid schemes to guarantee their support in the plan to roll out the new vaccines quickly and effectively.

The country has been in some form of lockdown since March 2020 and the economy has accordingly taken a hit. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and many businesses continue to suffer. Combine this with the country’s population health status and the rising death toll; many are of the opinion that the provision of a vaccine is beyond question.

While the government has already commenced with its vaccine roll-out plan, albeit with minimal quantities to start, President Rhamaposa has publicly promised that all residents will be given the opportunity to get vaccinated in the near months, pending adequate funding.

As part of this vaccine roll-out strategy, medical aid providers will be expected to partake in the plan to ensure, at minimum, that their members receive their vaccinations. Most medical aid providers seem to be on board with this expectation and cannot deny that the cost of providing the required dosage will be far less than paying for hospitalisation in the event that a member contracts the virus. From a medical finance provider’s perspective, getting the vaccine to its members is non-negotiable.

Many private medical firms have also shown a willingness to accept the government’s plan to sell the vaccines to private companies with a mark-up. This will help them raise funds to cover the costs of delivering the vaccine to non-health scheme members. This type of public-private partnership has already been established in many other parts of the world.

There is, however, one concern. While most medical schemes in South Africa are more than willing to hop on board with the government’s vaccine plan, their accounts say otherwise. As the government holds its breath and awaits further funding; there are just too many unknowns, including the pricing structure for private Covid-19 vaccine administrations. So, from an accounting perspective, the present obligation cannot be estimated and there is no proof that all medical schemes will have it in their means to meet the “unexpected” budgetary requirements.