There is no single medical scheme that can claim to offer the cheapest plan for pregnancy and childbirth. The reality is that all medical schemes price their products similarly, and maternity benefits are available on all these plans. It is important to understand that what is known as medical insurance and hospital cash back plans are not medical aids. These products are cheaper but do not offer the same pregnancy and childbirth benefits that is needed to financially cover a private hospital and doctor.
Low Price Medical Aid Plans
Medical aid plans could cost as little as R650 for a single member in 2014. These rates increase between 8% to 15% annually, depending on the scheme. Some low price medical aid plans are reserved for low income earners, so not every person may qualify for reduced rates based on their current earning potential. It is important to realise that low priced medical aid plans do offer less benefits. Nothing is free, especially not in private healthcare within South Africa. If you opt for a low priced plan then expect to get less than other medical aid members on higher plans.
Most medical schemes in South Africa have low priced plans. Not all will be around the same price but there is a good reason for this. No single medical scheme can claim to be cheaper than all others yet offer the same benefits on its lowest priced plan. So one medical scheme with the lowest priced plan costing more than another scheme is essentially offering more benefits for the higher rate. Therefore it is always important to compare plans and make sure they are on par before selecting the option that best suits you.
Group Network Plans
A group of cheaper medical aid plans that can sometimes be confusing to consumers is known as network plans. It is a type of medical aid plan that restricts its members to only see certain service providers and attend specific hospitals within the network. Due to this arrangement, the scheme is able to offer the group network plans at lower rates. It is usually linked to specific private hospital groups like Netcare or Life Healthcare. When looking around for the cheapest medical aid plan for pregnancy, a group network plan may be the better option rather than taking the bottom of the range medical aid.
Although the member is restricted to services within specific private hospitals, in most instances it is within reputable private hospitals in South Africa. However, not every obstetrician and gynaecologist may perform deliveries or C-sections at the hospital in question. In fact not all medical specialists will accept these lower cost plans despite there being maternity benefits available. It is therefore equally important to ensure that the OBGYN and private hospital you choose are covered within the network plan. Attending a hospital outside of the network can mean a large co-payment on your part as the member.
Services and Benefits
Remember that the cheapest plan gives you the least benefits so you should not expect all the ‘bells and whistles’ for your pregnancy and delivery. You may be restricted to certain hospitals and doctors. You may not have your antenatal pregnancy scans covered by the medical aid. You may even need to make a co-payment on top of what your medical aid pays to providers. And some doctors will not accept certain low cost medical aid plans altogether.
Nevertheless cheap medical aid plans are still a good option if affordability is an issue. It is better than no medical aid at all. These plans usually contain maternity benefits although it will be much smaller and restrictive than higher cost plans. The same waiting period for pregnancy will apply, and once it elapses then you are afforded all the benefits as per the plan schedule.