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Medical Schemes must resume payments to psychologists
The SA Board of Healthcare Funders will have to resume making payments to psychologists after theCape High Court ruled that the psychologists’ Scopes of Practice regulations issued by the Minister of Health in 2011 were invalid.
JASA (the Justice Alliance of South Africa)andReLPAG (Recognition of Life Long Learning in Psychology Action Group)had challenged the validity of the regulations. The Scopes of Practice reserve the most important work for a minority of psychologists, with the effect of depriving many South Africans of desperately needed psychological care.
The order was the result of a settlement reached between the parties after the Minister acknowledged in papers that the regulations had not been properly passed. A costs order was made against the Minister of Health andHealth Professions Council of South Africa for the major part of the applicants’ legal costs, including the costs of two counsel.
TheBoard of Healthcare Funders,the fifth respondent, has agreed to abide by the outcome of the case, and consequently its members and the other medical aids, many of whom refused to pay psychologists purportedly working outside the Scope of Practice, will need to resume making payments.
Various medical aids such asPolmed, GEMS, Bonita, Sizwe, ProfmedandMedihelp followed a non-payment policy so causing major financial hardship to practitioners, forcing some out of practice and others to leave the country. Patients suffered a great deal also in being forced to leave psychologists who had served them for many years.
JASA has been most concerned about the impact of the Scopes of Practice on ordinary South Africans. Research shows that one in three citizens suffer from psychological illnesses and there is a major shortage of psychologists inSouth Africa,particularly in remote areas.