As each new year begins medical aid members start with a clean slate, with new benefits and replenished savings available. ‘If you manage your medical expenses correctly you can avoid out-of-pocket expenses and limit the possibility of running out of benefits,’ says Gerhard Van Emmenis, Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund.
Van Emmenis, gives some tips on managing your medical expenses to make them last.
Find a GP on your medical aid’s network
Using network doctors is an invaluable tool to make your medical aid last longer as it means you won’t be charged more than a specific amount. At present, Bonitas Medical Fund has the largest network of GPs in South Africa – with over 6 000 doctors.
Always use partner networks
Medical schemes negotiate preferential rates with providers who have partnered with them. This means if you use a network hospital, doctor or pharmacy you will not be charged more than the rate agreed with the scheme. This will also help you to avoid co-payments, deductibles and additional out-of-pocket expenses.
Ask your pharmacist
Buy over-the-counter medicine to treat less serious ailments and consider using generic medicine which is cheaper but effective. Pharmacists are able to provide sound medical advice on problems such as rashes, colds or illnesses that are not severe, simply ask!
Going to hospital – get the facts
Talk to your doctor or specialist before being admitted to hospital. Check what they are going to be charging and what your scheme will cover. If there is a large difference, don’t be afraid to approach your doctor to see if they are prepared to adjust their fee. Alternatively, you can also check if there are other healthcare providers who are on your scheme’s network that will charge you a better rate.
Remember to pre-authorise
Pre-authorisation is required for all hospital admissions to ensure your stay will be covered. Always ask if there are any co-payments or sub-limits that will apply and what you can do to avoid these. For planned procedures, it’s also worth checking with your scheme if you will obtain better cover by using contracted providers or having the procedure performed in the doctor’s rooms or a day clinic.
If you need to undergo an operation, ask your surgeon for the codes that will be charged. This will include the procedure codes and those for any other products that will be needed, this all helps with pre-authorisation and ensuring the costs will be covered.
Look for schemes that offer benefits paid from risk
These benefits give you more value for money and are in addition to your savings and day-to-day benefits. Bonitas pays for maternity consultations, wellness benefits, preventative care and dentistry from risk on most plans.
Managed care benefits
Some schemes offer programmes to help you manage severe chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. These programmes are usually covered from the risk portion of your medical contribution and are not funded from your savings account. They help you use your benefits to maximum advantage while ensuring you receive quality care by using specific providers.
Be aware of consulting after hours
In an emergency one has no choice, but after hours consultations are very expensive. As a general rule, try to avoid using an ER facility where possible. A bona fide medical emergency usually results in admission into hospital.
Manage your chronic medicine correctly
The golden rule for chronic illness benefits is to try to use the medication on your scheme’s formulary and to obtain this from a specified pharmacy, either on the network or a designated service provider. Bonitas offers a home delivery service for chronic medicine, to make things even more convenient for members.
If you suffer from a Prescribed Minimum Benefit (PMB) condition, understand what benefits are provided as part of a PMB condition and utilise the service of the designated service provider to ensure that your claims are paid from risk rather than from your medical savings account.
‘Don’t be uninformed,’ says Van Emmenis. ‘Your health is important, so take the time to research and understand the medical aid plan you’ve chosen. Read the information sent to you by the Scheme or your broker. Ensure you read the fine print and understand the Scheme Rules. This will go a long way in helping you know your rights and making the most of your benefits.’