What Payment Methods Are Available For Medical Procedures?
Medical procedures of any kind can be expensive, especially if you’re unprepared and not on medical aid. While some can afford to put money aside in an emergency fund, others can’t and have to rely on traditional payment methods or opt for free treatment in a government hospital. In this article, we look at the current medical payment methods in South Africa, some potential alternatives and how private hospitals operate when it comes to paying for medical procedures.
Payment Methods And Private Hospitals
Private hospitals in South Africa will only accept medical aid settlements or payments directly from the patient in cash or via credit card. They will admit a medical aid member only after acquiring an authorisation number from their medical aid scheme. In some cases, patients may need to pay a small co-payment admission fee, also in cash or by credit card.
Post-treatment, the private hospital submits the bill to the medical aid who immediately reimburses the facility if:
- the specific plan covers the procedure and hospital
- there are sufficient benefits available
- the patient was admitted for essential medical services
Medical Aids In South Africa
In South Africa, medical aids are registered organisations that guarantee payment for medical procedures or services to active members. In the event of emergencies and essential medical services, medical aids will ensure that patients receive treatment in a hospital.
It’s important to note that even when you are covered by medical aid, you are still responsible to pay any shortfall. This could be a case of the medical aid not fully covering a procedure or specific doctor which is why many institutions provide GAP cover.
Also, most medical aids won’t cover non-essential medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery and fertility treatments. For this, and many other procedures, MediFin provides affordable medical loans.
Paying For Medical Procedures By Credit Card Or Cash
People without medical aid can only pay for procedures by cash or credit card and there is usually an upfront fee before admission. This can be incredibly expensive depending on the reason for admission; and those who can’t afford it, will not be admitted unless it’s an emergency. In this instance, they will be stabilised and then transferred to a government hospital.
Most private hospitals in South Africa accept all major credit cards and also foreign currencies in some cases. They often reserve a large amount on your credit card to cater for services during your admission which ensures that the hospital gets paid when you are discharged. Non-medical aid patients will receive the final bill when discharged and are required to settle it in full.
Also, the rates for non-medical aid patients may differ from the tariffs charged to medical schemes as per the National Health Reference Price List (NHRPL).
What About Flexible Patient Payment Methods?
With the rising cost of healthcare services and medicines, what can be done to make quality healthcare more affordable for everyone? More doctors could offer patients flexible payment options. To find out what payment methods to offer, they should look at the following:
- the patient’s ability to pay, their financial capacity and income
- find out where they aren’t paying and how they can pay
When someone is not paying, it’s a strong indication that something is wrong but there is a solution. Instead of treating it as a problem, doctors should work more closely with the patient and find a mutually beneficial payment solution. More often than not, a great financial experience coupled with a good clinical experience can result in receiving payments without any hassle.
Payment Plans And Discounts
While some healthcare practitioners offer standard payment methods, they aren’t overly successful. However, offering a simple 10 – 20% discount for prompt payment could change the whole dynamic. Not only does it help the patient get some cash back but it also means the clinician or physician will receive payment faster.
Another popular payment option is breaking the entire bill down into payments over a few months or a year. While this is practical and more affordable, it does carry significant risk to the healthcare practitioner. Often the patient can only afford a few hundred Rand per month which means they have to extend the payment period.
What About Medical Loans?
There has been some talk about patients setting their own payment parameters but how sound is this strategy? Patients could be more likely to make payments when they can choose the amount and the period that works for them but there’s always some form of collection risk involved.
A better solution is opting for healthcare financing from a respected and accredited institution like MediFin. They provide affordable medical loans for a large number of medical procedures from laser eye surgery and dental work to radiology, surgeries, private hospital stays and many others.