Healthcare company Discovery Health is introducing a novel healthcare payment system with the launch of a R300 prepaid GP consultation voucher, joining two other similar schemes, reports Business Maverick.
The prepaid voucher offering has no relation to Discovery Health Medical Scheme and is being rolled out by Discovery Health Pty Ltd, the company that handles administration for Discovery Health Medical Scheme as well as many other medical schemes.
Prepaid vouchers for GP consultations, similar to prepaid cellphone accounts, constitutes a marked shift for Discovery Health, which typically aims at higher-income customers. Whether this will work in the context of healthcare with the same success as it did in the cellphone context is a contested issue, since this type of healthcare payment is almost unheard of, but it could potentially help millions of poorer patients, writes Business Maverick‘s Neesa Moodley.
Chief executive of Discovery Health Ryan Noach is quoted as saying that although the group is launching with a single R300 voucher covering a GP consultation plus medication for five days, more vouchers are in the pipeline for next year, including nurse consultations, virtual consultations and pharmacy vouchers.
“When we stepped back and looked at the market, we saw that about 8 million people are formally employed with no health insurance. We did extensive research into this market segment and about 50% told us they are accessing private healthcare out of their own pockets and they are not having a great experience for a few reasons.
“One is that prices are not transparent… they are variable, and at times cash consumers are paying a lot more than insured consumers do for primary healthcare,” he says.
“We’ve contracted in an unusual way with the doctors in that we have taken on some of the capital risk and prepaid them for hours in their diary. So this offering is prepaid for the consumers and the doctors,” he explains.
The launch follows hospital group Netcare, which launched a similar product in August this year.
Teshlin Akaloo, managing director of Netcare’s innovative products division, says there are more than 500 doctors across all nine provinces and the virtual option means you can access a private GP consultation regardless of your location.
Both the Discovery Health prepaid vouchers and the NetcarePlus GP vouchers fall in an unregulated no-man’s-land – falling under neither medical schemes nor insurance products. Noach says Discovery Health had extensive discussions with the Financial Services Conduct Authority prior to launch.
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