Medical schemes can’t bear brunt of vaccine funding – Profmed CEO
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DURBAN – The chief executive officer of medical aid scheme Profmed, Craig Comrie, has said that he is concerned about how South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine acquisition is going to be funded.
Comrie said in a statement on Monday that the idea that private medical schemes should be required to fund double the cost of their members’ vaccinations by also funding the dose of an uninsured South African for every member they vaccinate was a cause for concern.
“This is an overwhelming obligation and expectation that creates huge questions around why the Department of Health would target scheme reserves in this way. There are many other businesses with reserves who have not been approached with the same magnitude of responsibility.
“We haven’t yet agreed to this arrangement and will be reluctant to do so without a clear undertaking of how medical scheme members will get guaranteed access to vaccines sooner rather than later,” said Comrie.
The government’s plan involves vaccinating 67 percent of the population by the end of 2021. This loosely translates to around 40 million people.
The first batch of vaccines, one million doses, arrived on Monday from India.
The vaccines were produced by biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in conjunction with Oxford University in England.
Comrie said that while Profmed was looking to help fund the vaccines, it could not offer member funds as it it was outside their legal and ethical decision-making powers.
Following a request by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, medical schemes are to pay for more than half of the cost up front, while business and national Treasury pay for less than 45% of the cost.
The initial costs of the vaccine effectively have medical schemes paying R6.8 billion (about US$455 million) of the estimated R12.1 billion total cost, explained Comrie.
“Medical schemes are already committed to cover R3.4 billion worth of vaccines for all scheme members. Adding another R3.4 billion to fund vaccinations for non-members will still mean that some medical schemes may struggle to fund future health-care costs.”
Due to financial difficulties and solvency levels, Comrie said that other medical schemes may not be in a position to fund additional vaccines.
Comrie believes that funding of the vaccine should be institutionalised through a more “democratic” approach and not one that requires “forced donations”.
“We are all in this together and I can only hope that the ambitious vaccination plan is achieved. As a private medical scheme, I can tell you that we will do everything in our power to contribute to this roll-out constructively, but we only exist because of our members and they will always come first,” said Comrie.
African News Agency