Cancelling or downgrading your medical aid plan – especially for parents – is often a last resort, but one that has to be taken when you’ve cut all other corners to save money.
When you have small kids, or a newborn, not having a medical aid can be really stressful: what will you do if your child gets sick?
Dr Iqbal Karbanee, CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine says babies get sick approximately between eight and ten times per year in their first three years of life, and if a child goes to nursery school or creche, this number can double. “Approximately one third of a baby’s first year is spent either getting sick or recovering from a sickness.”
Medical expenses can pile up
The cost of medical consultations in a baby’s first three years can quickly escalate. If you’re on a medical aid plan without a savings plans (hospital plans), the costs of doctor’s visits are not included. This can leave families out of pocket, because you have to pay cash before you even see the doctor. Some medical aids calculate the cost of raising a child in the first year at over R90 000 for the average middle-income family.
You don’t always need to see the doctor
“Some new parents don’t know how to identify the difference between a common complaint that can be treated at home, or a life-threatening situation that urgently requires a trip to the emergency room,” says Karbanee.
He adds that while the lockdown and social distancing forced many medical providers to embrace technology-based solutions such as virtual GP consults, these are offered mostly to medical aid members. “Virtual consults therefore still remain out of reach and inaccessible for most.”
He adds that these virtual doctor consults and other such services require the use of data which makes it impossible to access for families who don’t have a smartphone, are not earning an income, or parents who have a severely constrained budget.
So how can parents and caregivers who have limited to no medical aid cover, or who lost their income, still get good healthcare for their family?
“Early and appropriate medical intervention that is rooted in less traditional or mainstream forms of advice can optimise medical outcomes, help to safeguard the health of children and families, and ensure that caregivers spend less money on medical bills,” says Karbanee.
Telephonic-based advise services have proven to be a winner during COVID-19 for those who have lost income, only have a hospital plan, or don’t have any medical aid cover at all.
“Caregivers can phone a medical-advice line and quickly get an answer on the correct course of action, without needing to spend time queuing in clinics or paying for single consultations,” says Karbanee.
Only use a service with medically trained and qualified professionals
However, he cautions that not all advice lines are the same, and that you should only use a service where medically trained and qualified professionals are employed. He also cautions against consulting with “Dr Google” or family members for medical advice.
“It can be dangerous to rely on friends and family who have ‘been there before’. Because you trust them, you may not question their advice, which may not be appropriate for your circumstances, or even be based on myth,” he says.
“Telephonic-based advices services don’t replace the services of a doctor or the taking of medicine, but it does offer appropriate and early medical intervention through advice, so that you feel more empowered to make better decisions to look after your child,” concludes Karbanee.
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