These 4 graphs show how many South Africans don’t have medical aid – and the surprising rise of traditional healers

 ·21 Jun 2018

New data from StatsSA reveals the shocking number of South Africans who are covered by a medical aid scheme.

StatsSA revealed in its General Household Survey (GHS), that between 2002 and 2017, the percentage of individuals covered by a medical aid scheme increased marginally from 15.9% to 16.9%. During this time, the number of individuals who were covered by a medical aid scheme increased from 7.3 million to 9.5 million people.

In a separate address, health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the release of two bills – the Medical Schemes Amendment Bill and the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill – on Thursday (21 June), would pave the way for more access to medical healthcare through the NHI.

“This question of universal health coverage, which we call NHI, is not going to leave the world unshaken. This is what we are going to be announcing on Thursday,” Motsoaledi said.

The minister’s announcement follows Cabinet’s approval of the two medical bills two weeks ago.

Referring to the NHI as the ‘land question of health’, Motsoaledi said the debates on the NHI will rage not only in the field of health but in the economic and social lives of the people.

“Yes, under NHI, the rich will subsidise the poor. The young will subsidise the old. The healthy will subsidise the sick. The urban will subsidise the rural.

“For this reason, we are contending that this will be a substantial policy shift. It will necessitate a massive reorganisation of the whole healthcare system, both public and private, and completely change the relationship between our spheres of government,” said the Minister.

According to Motsoaledi, laws will have to receive an overhaul to ensure the success of the NHI.

“We are going to be asking you to change most of the laws that you have painstakingly cobbled together since the advent of democracy.

“You might have had to dismantle some of the relationships between spheres of government and also rattle the corporate world in health. That is what we will mean by a massive reorganisation of the health system,” he said.

State of SA healthcare

StatsSA’s data showed that  a quarter (24.7%) of individuals in metros that were members of medical aid schemes, exceeding the national average of 16.9%.

The data also showed that the highest membership was noted in the City of Cape Town (29.2%) and the City of Tshwane (29.1%), while the lowest membership was measured in Buffalo City (19.4%) and eThekwini (19,6%).

Other data shows that public clinics are still the first point of contact for most South Africans, with the bulk of the population (63.7%) making use of them, compared to the 24.6% of the population that head to a private doctor.

However, the use of traditional leaders (0.7% of the population) has seen a resurgence, having reached the highest point in the past 14 years. Just under 400,000 people are using traditional healers are their primary healthcare provider.

Medical aid coverage, 2002–2017

Percentage of individuals who are members of medical aid schemes by metropolitan area in 2017

Percentage of individuals who are members of medical aid schemes by population group in 2017

Percentage distribution of the type of healthcare facility consulted first by the households when members fall ill or get injured from 2004–2017


Read: South Africa’s cheapest medical aid schemes and hospital plans in 2018

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