Shock as medical aid fees skyrocket

Cimas medical aid

ZIMBABWEANS on medical aid are struggling to access health care services as service providers demand top-ups or charge hefty premiums citing the inflationary environment.

A survey by The Standard showed that service providers are jostling to increase premiums in what they say is an attempt to hedge against any expected losses.

An elderly man who suffers from hypertension said he got the shock of his life when he was told that he could no longer access medication without topping up with United States dollars despite being up to date with payments.

"You can imagine the shock of my life to wake up one day being told that in order for me to access my medical aid, my medical aid required a total of US$$19 on top,” Ruvimbo Techu said.

"I ended up paying half of that amount so as to get access to a few tablets to help me get by for at least two weeks.”

Other Zimbabweans lamented receiving astronomical bills from their service providers.

"I have just received a bill from Cimas medical aid for $709,730.00 which is three times the amount of my allowance as a pensioner,” lamented one Harare man.

"If you want to take a look at it, that is a 100% increase in one month.”

Medical aid service providers said the hard operating economic environment characterised by a free-falling local currency was to blame.

Cimas managing director — medical aid, Tinotenda Mushapaidze said their ability to offer health coverage to members was at risk owing to the economic downturn.

"The broader economic performance impacts our operations, and to remain viable, we have to pass part of the cost to our members,” Mushapaidze said.

"We remain hopeful that the economy will improve and ease the burden of increasing contributions on stagnating salaries and preventing potential defaults."

First Mutual Life Cluster chief executive officer for life and health business, Reuben Java said  frequent tariff reviews only apply to Zimbabwe dollar health schemes.

"Frequency of tariff review reflects the speed at which the local currency is devaluing against the US dollar,” Java said.

“If we do not review tariffs monthly, the weekly (and sometimes daily) price escalations by medical service providers would mean shortfalls paid directly by members would escalate rapidly as well.

"For companies and individuals who have or generate US dolar revenues, our recommendations are that they migrate to the US dollar medical scheme because under the US dollar scheme, the premiums are stable.”

Java added: “When contrasted with expense structures which are mostly in US dollars, depreciating ZWD revenues create pressure to contain costs to ensure business sustainability.”

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