StatsSA has published its latest General Household Survey (GHS), revealing the number of South Africans that are covered by a medical aid scheme.
The group’s data shows that between 2002 and 2018, the percentage of individuals covered by a medical aid scheme increased marginally from 15.9% to 17.1% in 2016, before declining to 16.4% in 2018.
During this period, the number of individuals who were covered by a medical aid scheme increased from 7.3 million to 9.4 million persons.
StatsSA found that more than one-fifth (22.6%) of South African households had at least one member who belonged to a medical aid scheme.
Approximately one-quarter (24%) of individuals in metros were members of medical aid schemes, exceeding the national average of 16.4%.
StatSA found that medical aid membership is most common in Tshwane (29.6%) and the City of Cape Town (27.7%), while the lowest membership was measured in Nelson Mandela Bay (20.6%) and eThekwini (20.7%).
Almost three quarters (72.9%) of white individuals were members of a medical aid scheme compared to just over one-half (52%) of Indian/Asian individuals. By comparison, only 9.9% of black Africans were covered by a medical aid scheme, StatsSA found.
Hospitals, doctors and traditional healers
When asked where they are most likely to go when first feeling ill, 71.5% of households said that they would first go to a public clinic, hospital or other public institutions, while 27.1% of households said that they would first consult a private doctor, private clinic or hospital.
The use of public health facilities was least common in Western Cape (56.1%), Free State (63.5%) and Gauteng (63.9%), and most common in Limpopo (86.1%), Eastern Cape (79.8%) and KwaZulu-Natal (79%).
Only 0.7% of responding households said that they would first go to a traditional healer.
While this figure has not increased since last year, Stats SA said that there has been a major resurgence in the use of traditional healers over the last decade – with the quoted 0.7% figure being the highest point reached in the past 14 years.
National Health Insurance
South Africa’s dire healthcare system is set to get a revamp when government officially introduces its National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
The NHI is a health financing system that is designed to pool funds to provide access to quality affordable personal health services and to ensure universal health coverage for all South Africans based on their health needs, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
While no official implementation date has been announced, president Ramaphosa announced in February that he had established a ‘war room’ to focus on the implementation of the new system.
“The NHI will enable South Africans to receive free services at the point of care in public and private quality-accredited health facilities,” he said at the time.
“By applying the principle of social solidarity and cross-subsidisation, we aim to reduce inequality in access to health care,” said the president.
“By introducing the NHI together with a multi-pronged quality improvement programme for public health facilities, we are working towards a massive change in the health care experience of South Africans.”