Students medical – a hospital plan makes sense
Students are usually on a tight budget but have the same medical needs as adults. Unfortunately if you are in university or college, you may not have the protection of being on your parent’s medical aid or hospital plan cover and have to go it on your own. While South African citizens are not required to have hospital cover, if you are a foreign student studying in the country then medical cover is necessary. Local or foreign, as a student you still want the best deal but before you sign up for a cheap hospital plan there are several points that you have to take into consideration.
Benefits and Prices
Firstly it is important to understand what you are looking for in a hospital plan. It is a broad term that can either refer to a medical aid or a type of insurance policy known as a hospital cash back plan. Now there is even medical insurance policies which include a hospital cash back plan but are not medical aids. So it is all a bit confusing for most consumers.
As a student with a tight budget and limited earning potential, here is what you need to know – a medical aid hospital plan pays for your medical bills when you are hospitalised while a hospital cash back plan pays you cash for being hospitalised.
Full Cover or Hospital Cover
Medical aid hospital plans are essentially a medical aid without the day to day cover. This means that if you are hospitalised or if you have the need for chronic medication then you have medical aid cover.
As a younger and usually healthier person, a medical aid hospital plan may make more sense for students than the more expensive full medical aid cover. Private hospitals in South Africa are expensive and without medical aid you will have to opt for a government facility, which most people want to avoid. Similarly, the treatment and management of a chronic condition can be a drain on the monthly budget without some sort of cover. Therefore a medical aid hospital plan may be the best – it covers you for two of the most expensive medical needs.
Should you need to see a doctor for the common cold or flu then you need to pay cash. Or you can use a government clinic. However, many reputable universities in South Africa have primary health clinics where your minor day to day ailments can be treated for free.
It is also important to know that as a student you can still stay on your parent’s medical aid, at the dependent rate, if you can prove your admission to a university to the scheme.
A medical aid hospital plan for a single person can start as little as R400 to R600 although there are cheaper options if you are comfortable with being restricted to only certain hospitals.
Getting Cash from a Hospital Plan
The allure of a hospital plan at times is the thought of getting cash when you are hospitalised. This is known as a hospital cash back plan. These plans are cheaper than a medical aid but before you sign up for it, here is an important point to bear in mind – a hospital cash back plan is not a medical aid in any form.
When you talk about a medical aid hospital plan and a hospital cash back plan then you are talking about two different financial products and you should not confuse the two.
A hospital cash back plan pays you cash in your hand for every day that you are in hospital. Some of the premium hospital cash back plans pay up to R 5,000 per day when hospitalised. It may sound good to a cash strapped student but remember that there is also a deferred period. This means that you will not get paid if you are hospitalised for less than 2 to 3 days. In other words, you have to be hospitalised for more than 2 to 3 days before you start getting a pay-out.
Most minor hospitalisation cases rarely extends for long periods, unless you are in a serious accident or having major surgery. Furthermore consider the cost of being in a private hospital. Only a medical aid will be considered as appropriate cover at the time of admission.
A hospital cash back plan starts from around R100 per month. Payouts vary depending on the level of cover that you purchase.
Hospital Plans for Foreign Students
One of the student visa requirements to attend a university or college in South Africa is that you have to have your own medical cover as a foreigner. It is important that foreign students understand that they need a medical aid – not a hospital cash back plan. Do not be fooled to opt for a hospital cash back plan, which is a very cheap insurance policy when compare to medical aid.
Unfortunately medical aids are not cheap. And the truth is that no single company offers cheaper medical aid cover with the better benefits than another medical scheme. It is all about the same price for the same benefits.
However, it is worthwhile discussing options with the admissions department at a university as they may be aware of cheaper plans for foreign students.