File image: Bonitas Medical Fund (Bonitas) on Wednesday announced its lowest increase in six years.

JOHANNESBURG - Bonitas Medical Fund (Bonitas) on Wednesday announced its lowest increase in six years.

After a challenging year for the healthcare industry, the contribution increase for 2018 would be a weighted increase of 8.7%, with increases on the various options range from 7.9% to 9.9%.

Principal Officer, Gerhard Van Emmenis said despite increasing healthcare inflation and economic pressures in the past year, robust cost-containment initiatives have enabled Bonitas to keep the weighted average contribution in single figures for 2018. The increase was the lowest seen from the Fund in recent years – clearly signalling its good financial health. Last year, speculation was rife, following Bonitas’ amalgamation with LMS Medical Fund. However, the impact of this has been negligible.

Read also: Bonitas members will pay nearly 12% more

“Money saved through innovative strategic measures allowed Bonitas to emerge in a stronger financial position despite industry challenges. This resulted in a reduction in the overall net deficit experienced by the Fund, reducing it from R205.5 million in 2015, to R16.9 million in 2016,” said Van Emmenis .

“As one of the largest and most stable medical schemes in South Africa , our mission is to make quality healthcare more affordable and more accessible. ‘We have, therefore, focused on balancing costs while ensuring our members continue to receive rich benefits,” said Van Emmenis.

Van Emmenis said it’s been a difficult few years for the healthcare industry, with medical schemes facing several challenges including economic pressures and escalating healthcare costs. In addition, medical schemes have to comply with the strict parameters of the Medical Schemes Act. In spite of this, the Fund recently announced that its reserves have been bolstered to

R3.1 billion and it has also seen a significant growth in membership. “Last year, we successfully concluded the largest amalgamation in the industry with LMS Medical Fund. This will continue to have a favourable impact on our membership as a whole, as a larger scheme is in a better position to negotiate tariffs in favour of our members,” said Van Emmenis.

The relatively low increase has not led to a reduction of benefits but rather an enhancement. “We’ve looked at the needs of our members and South Africa as a whole to introduce several new benefits in 2018. This includes a benefit for contraceptives and a mental wellness programme, among others”.

“Increases are unfortunately inevitable given the high healthcare costs and inflation but we strive to keep premiums as affordable and accessible for all. Some of the benefits have been tweaked, others increased but all aimed at helping members take control of their health and lead better lifestyles and with South African socioeconomic factors in mind,” said Van Emmenis.