Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Discovery Health readies R20bn cash reserves to fight coronavirus in SA

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Mar 11, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG -  South  Africa’s top medical aid schemes have mobilised resources to deal with any potential outbreak of the coronavirus.

Discovery Health said it would use some of its R20 billion cash reserves to prepare for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Chief executive Ryan Noach said the money would be used to extend additional cover to its members without increasing premiums.

Noach said the scheme had created a new benefit called the World Health Organisation Outbreak Benefit to provide cover for out-of-hospital global outbreaks, including the coronavirus.

He said the benefit would be used to test, diagnose and treat members exposed to the virus. “We feel and the trustees of the medical scheme feel very strongly this is the right time if needed to tap into the reserves,” Noach said.

On Thursday South Africa confirmed its first case of the coronavirus after a KwaZulu-Natal father tested positive. The man had just returned from a holiday in Italy with 10 other people including his wife.

Noach said the group had taken the bold step of assembling a leadership team supported by specialists and had been meeting daily to ensure proactive action in the best interests of its members.

“We recognise the importance of being prepared for public health emergencies and of giving our members access to the most appropriate and effective health care cover under all circumstances,” said Noach.

Bonitas Medical Fund’s principal officer Lee Callakoppen said while the scheme had received minimal queries on the coronavirus, its call centre team had been fully briefed and trained to respond to queries about the coronavirus.

Callakoppen said Bonitas had communicated with all hospitals to be prepared as part of standard precautions of infection control.

He said the scheme had mobilised a team of case managers to provide dedicated support to members who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We feel we are as prepared as we can be at this time but will continuously re-evaluate our plans as and when circumstances change,” Collakoppen said. “Everyone is on high alert and on standby to assist any member who might contract the coronavirus.”

Profmed chief executive Craig Comrie said the virus was not an unusual event, given that  South Africa had experienced drug resistant TB, as an example.

Comrie said Profmed would pay for all diagnosis and care costs of confirmed coronavirus cases from risk, but a person needed to communicate with their medical scheme to confirm benefits.

“As a medical scheme, we have advised our members to phone their doctors ahead of time, if they suspect that they have coronavirus. If you arrive without warning, they might not want to see you.”


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