Employment compensation

Study supports case for medical benefits package

A study commissioned by the Council for Medical Schemes to determine the affordability of prescribed minimum benefits for members of medical schemes, has quashed industry speculation that this state-determined minimum basket of healthcare is driving up the cost of monthly contributions. The study, led by Prof Heather McLeod from the Centre for Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town, used the database of SA's largest medical scheme administrator Medscheme to put a price tag on the cost of delivering the benefits package in both a public and private sector setting. The package covers 270 medical conditions and must be provided by all schemes without financial limits, or co-payments, (schemes cannot ask patients to pay for part of the costs themselves, for instance). They can be provided in private hospitals, or in private wards within public hospitals, such as those in Tygerberg, Groote Schuur and the Johannesburg General Hospital. From next year, the benefits will be expanded to include more comprehensive HIV/AIDS cover and medication for 25 conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension, detailed in the chronic disease list. Using 2001 prices, the researchers found the annual cost per beneficiary of the complete package would be R1551 for the low cluster, R3798 for the high cluster, and R2157 for the industry in the private sector. In a public sector setting, those costs fell to R1016, R2425, and R1400 respectively. For a family of four, the monthly cost of the complete package would be R321 for the low cluster, R638 for the high cluster, and R417 for the weighted industry if delivered in a public sector environment. McLeod said there was considerable scope for the medical schemes industry to design cheaper benefit packages that would be affordable to low-income families, thus drawing in the employed but currently uninsured market.(Source: Tamar Kahn: Business Day, 6 February 2003)

Phony plague costs state R631m

Public servants who abuse their sick leave to extend their weekends are costing the state millions of rands. A Public Service Commission report has found that many national and provincial employees are using sick leave as a convenient method to extend their weekends. The study on sick leave was undertaken between 1999 and 2000 and tabled in the Gauteng legislature last week. It found that in that year public servants had cost the government R631-million in sick leave. In Gauteng the cost of sick leave to the finance department was R29-million in 2000 and about R54-million in 2001. About 959 950 public servants were surveyed, of which 752 665 are employed at provincial level and 207 285 nationally. About 34% of employees at provincial level and 63% of those in national departments took sick leave. Public servants at provincial level took on average three days less sick leave than their counterparts at national level. The illnesses that caused the most absenteeism in the public service were bronchitis (206 219 days), flu (196 940 days) and upper respiratory and related illnesses (141 639 days). Stress was the fourth highest cause of absenteeism.The highest number of days was lost to people in the 30-39 age group. The report queried information it received from Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, which showed low figures.According to the data, only 2,7% of public servants in the Eastern Cape, 14% of public servants in Limpopo and 14% in Mpumalanga took sick leave, which is at odds with other provinces, which reflect sick leave of between 27% and 90%. The report recommends that government departments improve their record-keeping. It says: It is possible to monitor sick leave trends in the public service. However, the effectiveness of such monitoring exercises will largely depend on the ability of departments at national and provincial level to keep their sick leave records up to date. The report notes that the abuse of sick leave in any organisation, including the public service, not only has financial implications; it also has a detrimental effect on the delivery of services. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union said the assumption that most workers were taking their leave to extend their weekends was not unrealistic. Spokesperson Molantoa Molaba said: This issue would arise with all other big employers, not only government workers. This research will help employers plan better and therefore improve services to citizens. Source: Rapule Tabane: The Star, 12 November 2002

Children's nutritional needs are too costly

One third of South African children have low levels of vitamin A in the blood, a quarter suffer from malnutrition-related stunted growth, one in 10 are deficient in iron and one in eight are underweight. But there is little that parents on low to middle incomes can do to rectify their children's nutrition problems. To provide a completely healthy and balanced diet to three children aged 15, 10 and six years is costly, at current prices, almost R800 a month.This is equivalent to the entire monthly wage of some domestic workers and 66 percent of the official minimum wage. A survey by Professor Johan Potgieter of Port Elizabeth shows that keeping children healthy is expensive. He estimates that one to three-year-olds cost R162 per month, four to six-year-olds R213 monthly while seven to 10-year-olds will cost parents R246 every four weeks. The price of keeping a child healthy rises with their age.( Source : The Mercury, 15 October 2002)

Determination of Employment Conditions in South African Agriculture

The purpose of this document is to arrive at a better understanding of the social and economic position, look at the scope for increasing the wages, a motivation for a minimum wage and at what level it should be set. It also includes recommendations in respect of conditions of employment of farm workers in South Africa.

Medical care soon for rich only

A Sake-Rapport survey of five of South Africa's largest medical schemes indicates membership levies will increase by between 13% and 40% next year. The increases are more than double the rise in members' salaries. Thus, households are spending a greater portion of their income on medical expenses. If this trend continues, medical scheme levies will be affordable only by the richest households The medical schemes say it is unfair to blame them for the higher levies. They point out some of the increases are due to external factors over which they have little control. More expensive medication and the poor rand/dollar exchange rate (for imported medicines) are named as important contributory factors to higher levies.