Medical aid scandal

HARARE - Shocking details have emerged that medical aid societies are discriminating against the ageing population, with people reaching retirement age not allowed to join any of the societies’ medical aid schemes.

This is in clear violation of the new Constitution which states in Section 82 (c) that the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of medical rights of people over the age of 70.

Zimbabwe’s Constitution provides that the elderly receive health care and medical assistance from the State, however, visits to Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals revealed that while procedures such as prostate enlargements are for free, it takes up to four months for one to be attended to.

Companies like Fidelity Life Medical Aid Society (Flimas), Cimas Medical Aid Society and First Mutual Life (FML) respectively have been found to discriminate against people from the ages 55, 59 and 65 respectively.

Investigations by the Daily News reveal that most top medical aid societies refuse membership to people aged 55 and above, thereby forcing them to pay cash for their mostly complicated and life threatening diseases, which may cost anything from $2 000 for a simple operation.

What this means is that President Robert Mugabe and most of his Cabinet members, war veterans, and the generality of the elderly in the country, cannot be accommodated in the profit-hungry medical aid societies.

Government yesterday confirmed that medical aid societies were performing a disservice, with the minister of Health, David Parirenyatwa issuing a stern warning to health insurance providers.

Speaking to the Daily News, Parirenyatwa said: “We are really concerned by the performance of the health insurance sector, it is high time we revealed policies around this area, from services being offered, the age groups and how one can access them.

“We should not do it as a piecemeal job but look at the issues affecting the sector as a whole. We are also looking at a regulatory authority falling under the ministry to regulate the activities of medical insurance providers.”

Old age brings with it diseases such as Alzheimer, depression, cardiovascular complications, bones and joints problems, prostrate enlargement, diabetes and cancer.

An Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe schedule shows that eye attention requires up to $1 600 cash depending on the procedure, while neurosurgery’s craniotomy procedure costs $1 590 and cardio-vascular remedies cost between $550  to $1 960.

To evade these obvious costs, medical insurance companies have settled for the younger population as their niche market.

To cover the rest, a few like Altfin medical insurance companies have the senior category which covers the elderly — albeit at shockingly high rates.     

Scandal-riddled Premier Service Medical Aid Society is the only one charging a flat fee for both adults and the “seniors” at $50 subscription fee per individual. But it is rejected by most doctors.                                                                                   

The Daily News discovered that for the few that accept the elderly to their schemes, they demand traceable medical history.

“The risk is high with the elderly,” said one employee at FML who requested anonymity.

“Such clients may require a procedure costing $3 000 within the first month. They may only be admitted after assessing their previous medical records and if they have been doing well health-wise.”

Altfin option schemes demand between $15 and $140 for its categorised adult services while “seniors” are required to pay between $15 and $168 for the highest scheme.

There was no response from FML managing director Ruth Ncube, whose assistant said she and the rest of the managers were in a meeting the whole day yesterday.

At Flimas, an employee told the Daily News: “You see, we cannot charge the same fees for an adult as that of a 20-year-old. It will not be viable. Senior people are difficult to maintain.

“This week they claim $20 for back-ache, next week they have something different. They are constantly complaining of something.”

Keith Nkomo, Flimas business development head, referred questions to general manager Nyaradzo Matindike, who in turn promised to pass the questions to the managing director Simon Chapereka. No feedback was obtained until the time of going to press.

Cimas’s acting managing director Roderick Takawira was said to be out of office.

Comments (2)

The Flimas employee quoted here obviously is giving the company line in saying older people have more health issues, however that's where this is covered by the younger members who make very few claims. The business model of only allowing young people to join hugely benefits the medical aid societies. Some older people myself included had to leave the country to get medical attention out of Zimbabwe when my application was refused. A waiting period for a pre-existing condition is acceptable practice but outright refusal is not

saundy - 24 March 2014

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