Expats heading to the Rainbow Nation for a new life in South Africa will need to think carefully about their healthcare provision. There are currently two options for those living there – public or private healthcare.
Whilst 80% of South Africans use the public system, it’s recommended that expats take out private health insurance. Here we explain why.
The South African government is this year attempting to establish a public healthcare system that works for all, but in the meantime the service is poorly funded, lacking resources and manpower. Patients can expect long waiting times in inadequate conditions. Treatment is not free so patients pay for services based upon their salary and number of dependents.
As mentioned, the government is working towards improving care with the implementation of a National Health Insurance system. This will eventually be established countrywide and will see more money being poured into the public system. It is hoped that in the next 10 years the service will improve the lives of all South African residents.
In contrast to public healthcare, the private sector is excellent with each city having a wide range of hospitals, GPs and clinics. There are a huge number of private hospitals across the country, and the good news is that the service here is one of the best in the world. Very much on a par with care in Europe.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not free. It is recommended that expats take out private healthcare insurance either before they arrive in the country, or with one of the local providers. Some insurance companies will specify the hospitals in which you can have your treatment, others will have their own network.
Choosing your insurance provider will require you to think carefully about what you and your family need. You may be offered insurance by your employer as a key benefit or it may be possible to switch your current healthcare policy to include treatments in South Africa.
All schemes will offer you different variations and options. It is strongly suggested that you to take out an insurance policy that lasts for longer than a year, as companies can refuse to renew them if you fall ill. Others can terminate insurance in the same circumstances so make sure you have understood all the small print. You don’t want to be caught out.
If you choose a local company for insurance you may be required to get your treatment pre-authorised. You may also be asked to carry your medical card with you in your wallet at all times.
It could be the case that your basic care allows you to be treated in an emergency but not in other circumstances. You’ll need to think through your options in terms of visiting the GP, regular check-ups and even dentistry. Only those on the lowest salaries will be entitled to free dental care so look at your medical insurance carefully if you’re keen to include dental visits.
It is the same situation with GPs. Public healthcare consultations will involve waiting times of weeks. If you have paid to go private, these times will be cut dramatically. You can choose your doctor from a long list, dependent on requirements and locations.
Some hospitals expect you to pay upfront for services, and you’ll need to do this before any treatments begin. Make sure you have sufficient funds as it may take a number of weeks to claim the money back from the insurance provider.
Finally, if you are looking to have a baby whilst living in South Africa the good news is that private healthcare in maternity services is of a very high standard. Again make sure you have definitely got all treatment required in your policy.
Take a look at our services to South Africa if you are looking to make the move.
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