JOHANNESBURG - Medical scheme Medshield is planning to introduce a loyalty programme that will attract young members in a competitive environment as the company hikes contributions by 14.3% for 2019.

Speaking at the company’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Glen Siko- sana, the executive for business development and marketing, said on Tuesday that the 50-year-old scheme was looking to expand its reach.

“We are now looking into a loyalty product to address the needs of the elderly which are already with us and the young people who we want to attract,” Sikosana said, adding that the group was also beefing up its tech- nology offering.

Medshield’s average beneficiary age is relatively high at 37.6 compared with the average age of all South African medical schemes of 32.5.

It has a high pensioner ratio with 12.2% of all beneficiaries aged 65 and older, compared with the industry average of 7.9%.

The loyalty programme comes against the backdrop of the popularity of Discovery Vitality that covers members of the Discovery Medical Aid as well as Momentum Multiply by Momentum Health.

Sikosana said the loyalty programme, which would be introduced shortly, had to be tweaked following concerns from regulators.

He said the scheme was in talks with relevant providers to beef up the programme. “We are starting to think; who are the retailers we can partner with? Those integrations take a while.”

Even with the 14.3% increase, rand for rand the scheme offered better value for money, he said.

Referring to the gazetting of the draft National Health Insurance Bill and the draft Medical Schemes Amendment Bill in June, Sikosana said the company was bracing itself for changes in the industry.

“We are highly dependent on brokers as a distribution arm. We have 580 brokers that are contracted to the scheme, and to immediately want to chop off the distribution arm becomes a huge thing. We think there are innovative ways to still use brokers in a different way that will give comfort to the brokers,” he said.

The Medical Schemes Act could have significant implications for medical schemes on issues such as governance and structuring of contribution tables, among others.

“Medshield has a firm intent to be part of the solution for the challenges facing South Africa’s entire healthcare value chain, and is ready to contribute to the clarity and transparency that is required in the current healthcare market.”

The scheme has 81553 members, an 11.12% improvement from 73390 in 2016.

Rosalind Reddy, the group executive for clinical risk, said despite the changing healthcare environment and the technical recession Medshield’s growth was outperforming expectations. “Our member-centric approach and option range meet the needs of our members and are translating into positive results,” said Reddy.

- PERSONAL FINANCE