S. African Insurers Explore Funding of Vaccine For Broader Population


South African Health Insurance companies, in collaboration with the government and business organizations are working on a program that will enable the private sector help fund Covid-19 vaccine for people who don’t have insurance cover.

Legislation has been amended and this will allow companies pay for shots with respect to people who don’t have medical insurance cover, according to Stavros Nicolaou, head of the Health Workgroup for Business for South Africa, which is a grouping of the country’s biggest organizations. He also disclosed that companies like miners may contribute funds for their workers to be covered.

“We are looking at a model of some cover for uncovered patients,” he said in an interview on Monday. “For every funded person, there will be a contribution to the unfunded.”

The South African government is facing increasing criticism by labor unions, health officials and opposition parties over inability to procure vaccines for its population. The country is yet to conclude any supply agreements for vaccines even when at least 33 nations have begun inoculating their populations. It projects to begin giving shots in the second quarter of the year to cover about a 10th of its estimated 60 million people, through the Covax initiative.

Only 17% of South Africans were covered by health insurance as at 2019, according to the National Statistics Agency.

The country has about 1.11 million confirmed cases, with about 30,000 deaths and has been worst hit in Africa by the Covid-19. There could be increased tension if medical insurers or companies are allowed to import vaccines solely for their members or employees.

Adrian Gore who is the CEO of South Africa’s biggest medical-insurance company, Discovery Ltd currently heads a panel that is tasked to figure out how the program will work.

The collaboration between medical insurers and government could fund vaccines for roughly 30% of the population but this leaves out a sizeable percentage if government is to achieve a vaccination target of two thirds to achieve herd immunity.

One of the country’s biggest medical insurers, Momentum Health Solutions Ltd, stated that it is working with authorities to make sure that vaccines are delivered to the most at risk population. Another large insurer, FedHealth, also said it aims to ensure the vaccination of all its members by year end 2021.

The estimated cost of vaccinating medical insurance company members in the country including logistics is about 7 billion rand ($470 million ) and this is under 2% of gross contributions received.

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