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Focus on fees and added value for 2020

Bonitas is just one of a number of medical aid schemes offering an enhanced menu of benefits for members for next year, writes Lynette Dicey


Recognising that South Africans are under significant financial pressure currently, Bonitas recently announced its range of enhancements for 2020 which include new benefits and an effort to keep increases as low as possible.


Increases for the year ahead range from just 6.2% with an average increase on risk contributions of 9.4% and a weighted increase of 9.9%.

“Taking into account the impact of the current socioeconomic landscape on consumers, our focus is to add value while balancing costs,” says Lee Callakoppen, principal officer of Bonitas.

Added value offerings include improved access to free discount vouchers from partners such as Takealot, Spar, Planet Fitness, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Edgars, Dis-Chem, Baby City, Unilever and Tiger Brands.

Bonitas attracted about 40,000 principal members during the first eight months of 2019, primarily due to the introduction of two new plans, reveals Callakoppen. Primary Select attracted 6,000 new members in the first month.

“In total, 42% of new business growth this year was drawn from the Primary, Primary Select, BonSave and BonFit plans.”

One of Bonitas’ key initiatives for 2020 is an enhanced Wellness Extender benefit to include, among others, blood tests and x-rays available on all options except BonCap, without impacting on day-to-day benefits or savings.

“The Wellness Extender,” says Callakoppen, “can be accessed after completing a wellness screening and can be used for services from GP consultations to physiotherapy treatment and blood tests.

“The good news is that this will be paid from the Wellness Extender first so members can stretch their benefits further,” he says. “Completing a wellness screening is a prerequisite to accessing the extender benefit. As a result we are rolling out screenings to Dis-Chem and Clicks clinics and the greater public, through family days and activations. This will allow the fund to identify high-risk members earlier and put them on the path to wellness through our managed care offerings.”

He adds: “Evaluating members’ needs, it became clear they require additional out-of-hospital benefits for daily medical and day-to-day expenses such as acute medicine, blood tests and xrays. On some plans day-to-day benefits have been increased while on others the savings portion has been increased the benefit increases range up to 15% more in 2020. On other options, the dental benefit has been restructured and in some GP visits when savings are depleted have been added.”

The fund covers the birth of about 9,000 babies every year. About 20% of these births involve some kind of complication. Support and education for pregnant women is therefore a critical component of Bonitas’ offering. From 2020 the maternity benefit will include a consultation with a lactation consultant. In addition, moms will be allowed to access discount vouchers at Baby City from the voucher platform.

Bonitas is currently in the process of establishing a comprehensive baby programme which will offer pregnant women a range of additional benefits and care.

“Hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease are the top four conditions suffered by Bonitas members,” says Callakoppen, adding that all these conditions can be significantly improved by exercising regularly and eating a healthier diet. The fund has therefore partnered with Run/Walk for Life which offers Bonitas members a 70% discount. “Members can join Run/Walk for Life and Eat for Life for just R135 a month,” he says. “As an added bonus, if a pregnant Bonitas mom joins the programme, her partner can join at no cost.”

Through strategic partnerships, new members joining Bonitas will be able to access R150,000 free life cover for three months as well as life, funeral and disability cover products with a free investment up to 110% of monthly contributions from Sanlam Indie, as well as a 5% discount on household and motor insurances, a free tracking device and emergency transport benefit through MiWay.

MedGap increased its limit to R165,000, introduced a trauma benefit for children and a R2,000 payout on confirmation of pregnancy, while offering Bonitas members a 26% discount. In addition, a special millennial gap product has also been introduced.

Over the past few years Bonitas has emphasised its Managed Care initiatives which help members to take control of their health. These initiatives have had notable successes. Its chronic medication initiative has resulted in about 187,000 members enrolled on the chronic medicine programme with 79% adhering to their chronic medicine regimens.

Its diabetes initiative, meanwhile, has resulted in 60,000 members registered as chronic diabetic beneficiaries with 77.6% adhering to chronic medication regimes.

There are about 28,000 unique registered beneficiaries with mental illness. Of these, 1,700 members have enrolled on the mental health programme and adherence to chronic medicine is 91.4%.

A back and neck programme continues to enjoy a 91% success rate with 3,200 members completing the programme with improved movement and functional rehabilitation. Of the members who completed the programme, only 5% required surgery.

Bonitas bolstered its reserves in the past year from R4bn in 2017 to R4.13bn in 2018. “This is pleasing,” says Callakoppen, “given a stagnant economy and other negative fiscal influences. Our strategic initiatives resulted in a positive impact with the fund attaining a 25.2% solvency rate and achieving a surplus of R164.8m.”