Should I Add an Elderly Parent to My Medical Aid as a Dependant?

elderly parent

An elderly parent can become a financial liability, especially when his or her income is limited. Many are unable to afford medical-aid contributions.

In South Africa, relying on public healthcare isn’t an option. Some form of medical cover is required. One solution is to add an elderly parent to your existing medical aid as an adult dependant.

Reasons to consider medical aid for an elderly parent

Aging is associated with deteriorating health that requires treatment. This may involve specialist nursing, as well as chronic medication, mobility and hearing aids.

This is not necessarily where the expenses end. If you’re the primary caregiver, your career opportunities may be limited and income affected. This can lead to long-term losses.

Without medical aid, the cost of caring for an elderly parent can be financially, emotionally and physically devastating.

Medical aid membership provides a buffer to escalating healthcare expenses and enables convenient access to private facilities and practitioners. This saves your elderly parent from the long queues and inferior healthcare associated with state hospitals.

Is medical aid the only option?

In addition to medical aid, there’s a range of health insurance products available in South Africa.

Unlike medical aid, which covers day-to-day and in-hospital expenses and typically pays the provider directly, health insurance pays out a defined lump sum per event. It’s up to the policy holder to settle the accounts.

Affordability is another key difference between medical aid and health insurance. In general, health insurance premiums are significantly lower than medical-aid contributions. However, the lump-sum payout doesn’t always cover the full cost of an event.

Lastly, medical-aid contributions are tax-deductible. Health insurance premiums are not.

Is medical aid membership the best option for an elderly parent?

While medical aid does provide comprehensive cover for the elderly, it can be punitively expensive.

Besides the standard rate for an adult dependant, which is usually in line with that of the principal member, a late joiner penalty is imposed when your parent has never belonged to a scheme before or has had a break from medical aid. This can be as much as 75% of the standard monthly membership cost.

A dependant must be on the same option. You may be paying for benefits that don’t pertain to older people, such as maternity benefits and surgeries that aren’t safe for older people.

Health insurance, on the other hand, is a low-cost access point to basic in-hospital and day-to-day cover. Some providers, such as Affinity Health, have tailored options for seniors.

That said, cover is limited and commensurate with the lower premiums. As a result, payouts aren’t always sufficient to cover the actual costs of hospitalisation and associated healthcare services.

What’s needed to add a parent as a medical aid dependant

Schemes only accept adult dependants who are financially dependent on the principal member. Proof may be requested.

Your parent may be liable for a late-joiner penalty if he or she hasn’t belonged to a medical scheme before or has had a hiatus from cover.

In addition, the usual waiting periods are imposed on all new members. During this time, claims are not paid. There’s a three-month general waiting period and a 12-month waiting period for pre-existing conditions.

The best course of action is to discuss your options with a medical-aid broker.

What we offer at IFC

At IFC, we offer informed, objective advice about South African medical aid schemes and we can help you find the best solution for your elderly parent. We can assist you or your parent in joining the scheme that best suits your needs and budget – and advise about adding an elderly parent to medical aid as a dependant. Contact us for more information or to discuss your needs.

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