Give your policy a health check

As the cost of medical aid continues to skyrocket, how many of us continuously review our cover by shopping around for an affordable and suitable policy?

According to financial expert Paul Beadle many South Africans could be paying nearly a third too much for their medical aid because they do not review their cover regularly.

"The difference between standard hospital cover for a family of four and the all-singing, all-dancing 'lifestyle' package could be as much as R4000 a month," he says.

His argument is that if you do not need all those extras you are better off putting the additional money into an investment account.

"The medical aid market has changed a lot in recent years, so consumers need the help and advice of a qualified medical aid broker who can review their circumstances and recommend the most cost-effective cover for their situation," he says.

Here are some of Beadle's top tips to finding the right medical aid:

lReview your medical aid regularly - Your circumstances and needs might have changed so your current scheme might not be cost-effective anymore. So shop around.

lDo you need the bells and whistles? - If you don't need gym membership or haven't made use of the theatre ticket discount in a while, rather save the money you spend on the extra cost of lifestyle benefits.

lHow healthy are you? - Unless you visit the doctor every week or have a chronic medical condition, a hospital plan should be sufficient for most people.

But check the coverage because some schemes are limited to certain geographic regions.

lDo you need a medical savings account? - If you don't visit the doctor that often, instead of paying into a medical savings account, put the money into an investment account.

You can access the money if you need to pay medical bills, but if you don't you'll get the growth in interest instead of the medical aid scheme.

lDo you understand your current scheme? - Medical aid schemes can be complex so that's all the more reason to understand what you are paying for, what cover you are getting and what the restrictions are.

Otherwise, how will you know if you have the best deal?

lWhat can you afford? - You should not be paying more than 10 percent of your salary on medical aid.

If affordability is an issue, consider joining a network medical aid scheme - the costs are lower but you are only allowed to use doctors and hospitals linked to the network.

lDo you still have dependants aged over 21? - Some schemes charge adult rates if your children are over 21 and no longer study, even if they still live at home. Others only levy the higher rates when your dependent child reaches 27.

Check your scheme's rules because paying adult rates for your son or daughter can add a hefty whack to your premiums.

lIf you swap schemes you probably won't face a waiting period - Medical aid providers cannot by law impose a three-month waiting period when you move to a new scheme if you have been with the previous scheme for at least two years without any breaks - so don't let the fear of three months with no cover stop you from shopping around for cheaper medical aid.

lNot all schemes charge a late joiner fee - If you have not had medical aid for a while ask your broker to advise on which schemes do not charge a late joiner fee.

lIs your broker still talking to you? - If you haven't heard from your medical aid broker since he-she sold you your current scheme, you should look for a new broker along with a new scheme.

A good broker will keep you up to date with new developments and new services.