South Africans have a number of credible, long-standing medical schemes to choose from, so why not just go direct to these schemes for medical cover?
This is a topic worthy of debate, with South Africans asking two key questions in this regard: Do healthcare brokers offer real value? And does utilising their professional expertise mean significantly more financial outlay for clients?
The fact is that going directly to a medical scheme – which may not be FAIS compliant – means you're only investigating that one option. Naturally most schemes believe they have a plan that's just right for you. The alternative?
A broker that will ask you myriad questions about your family's health history and your current and future lifestyle choices, and who by law has to give you three different schemes as options from which to choose.
The benefits of this personal approach are a compelling reason for many people to use a broker, who also understands and can explain the jargon and complexities of healthcare comparisons.
In a company situation, employees seeking advice from an HR manager on a closed scheme should present no problems.
However no advice should be provided on an open scheme as an HR manager is unlikely to be qualified to do so. Members on an open scheme should seek advice from a FAIS compliant person such as a broker.
As with most forms of insurance, inadequate or unsuitable cover will end up costing you more in the long-run. This is because along with your monthly premiums, you are likely to end up footing the bill for additional medical costs where your cover falls short.
Avoid unexpected and unnecessary expenses
Using an expert who can effectively match your healthcare and financial needs to the most suitable medical cover will help avoid these unexpected and unnecessary expenses.
John Sherratt, MD of iChoices, an authorised financial services provider, recognises the valuable but challenging part brokers play in assisting people to obtain quality medical cover.
Sherratt comments, "Brokers have had a tough time of late with FAIS and FICA Acts limiting their income and adding to the administrative burden. As a result, many brokers will be reconsidering this career."
He continues, "An insufficient number of brokers would be bad news indeed for the South African public – those that use the services of a broker can vouch for the vital expert advice these professional intermediaries provide."
From a broader industry perspective, schemes tend to compete more vigorously for business and price more competitively and fairly when selling through a broker. This translates into bringing your costs down, so is definitely regarded as a valuable negotiating platform.
It is often the broker/client relationship that ends up winning the case for using an intermediary – it affords South Africans the opportunity to develop a relationship of trust with an industry professional.
And considering FAIS and FICA Acts stipulate that it is the broker's responsibility to stay abreast of industry changes that might affect your policy, this is just the person you need to have on your side. After all, can you put a price on peace of mind?