Many lack healthcare

Charity Bhengu

In a country renowned for the world's first successful heart transplant, there are still many people who do not have access to the most basic of healthcare services

This was said by health expert Neels Barendrecht, who spoke in Johannesburg yesterday about the future of the private healthcare industry. Barendrecht, who is also the chief executive officer of Mx Health, South Africa's third-largest outsourcing healthcare administrator, said there were currently only 7,5 million beneficiaries of private healthcare.

He said the fact that the healthcare funding market had become increasingly competitive and discerning had not helped industry outreach because healthcare cover had become one of the greatest cost burdens for the  consumer.

Barendrecht also said that with the contribution rates of most medical aid schemes having doubled over the past three years, members had had to make do with cheaper healthcare plans.Others were forced out of the private healthcare system altogether.

On the other hand, he said he was also concerned about an increasing number of medical schemes that continued to show poor results and minimal reserve growth.

Long-term success in the South African healthcare arena requires agility, an innovative approach, expert skill and the willingness to challenge the status quo, he said.

Barendrecht said there was a growing demand for highly versatile healthcare produces and sophisticated healthcare information technology. There was also a need for financially sound healthcare administrators to offer well-structured and realistically priced products across the board.

However, the key to achieving this sought after balance lies in the full implementation of risk management, which is unfortunately still only used on an ad-hoc basis by many medical schemes.

If healthcare risk management was implemented effectively, the health and general well being of the medical scheme member would be assured and more citizens of the country could enjoy the benefit of healthcare funding through sound risk pools, he said.

It is essential that a balance be maintained between advocating patient interests, which include quality, affordability and accessibility of healthcare, and the allocation of scarce resources.

He said constructive dialogue, true partnerships, and the sharing of knowledge, resources and skill, would bring about a more equitable private healthcare-funding arena".(Source:  Sowetan, 11 October 2002)