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The best medical aid schemes in South Africa



Consultancy group Consulta has published the findings of its latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for the medical aid scheme industry, showing which of the country’s largest medical aid schemes has the happiest customers.

The survey is conducted annually by Consulta to provide insights into the overall satisfaction of members of South Africa’s largest medical scheme providers by membership numbers. The survey includes Bestmed, Bonitas, Discovery and Medihelp, with the Government Employers Medical Scheme (GEMS) being the only closed medical scheme included in the survey.

The survey results showed that the overall medical aid scheme industry in South Africa is starting to recover from a bumpy few years dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic. All medical schemes, apart from Bonitas, showed an increase in customer satisfaction scores compared with 2021/22.

According to the group, Bestmed maintained its position as the leader in the country with a satisfaction score of 78.6 and sits above industry par (75.0). Discovery (74.2) and Medihelp (75.2) come in on industry par.

Bonitas (71.8) and GEMS (72.1) are below par on overall customer satisfaction.

Medical aid2022/23 Score
Industry par75.0

According to Consulta, after losing ground during the past three tough Covid years, there has been a slight bounce back for medical aids for the first time since 2019.

“But medical schemes are not yet out of the woods. After last year’s dramatic drop to a six-year low, the industry has some ground to recover,” it said.

“The good news is that there has been an increase in perceived value by members over the last 12 months. Yet one of the emerging challenges is the need for the industry to improve the way complaints are handled.”

While medical schemes, on the whole, showed the first decrease in complaints in five years, the incidence of complaints in 2022 is high at 15% in comparison to the international best practice score, which is below 10%, it said.

Abigail Boikhutso, Group Chief Executive at Consulta, said that, essentially, the industry has levelled back to “ground zero”.

“During the pandemic, medical schemes were caught in the eye of the storm in a difficult and unsettled period where household incomes were impacted, and job and financial security were in the balance. In line with this, consumer price tolerance was low and requirements may not have been perceived to have been met by members.

“It follows that a high rate of complaints would have a marked negative impact on customer satisfaction scores. Now that we’ve come through the worst of Covid, the industry has experienced a slight increase in perceived value by members.”

However, Boikhutso noted that the benchmark is low, and this positive bounce is, in reality, taking medical schemes back to where they were in 2019.

“The industry is normalising. The strongest gauge in the Customer Satisfaction Index Model is ‘Customer Expectation’ because it measures customer anticipation of the quality of a company’s service. This includes non-experiential information like advertising and word of mouth, as well as a forecast of the company’s ability to deliver quality in the future.

“The 2022 study shows that the industry is normalising back to the relevant range of between 80.1 – 82.2,” she said.

Boikhutso said that this range contrasts with the notably high 2020 industry expectation of 85.0, which could be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic as customers expected more from their medical aid schemes to assist them during that period.

Only Bestmed and Discovery exceeded the industry benchmark in 2022.

“Moving forward, the challenge to expectations is further complicated for medical schemes by the difference in cost and benefits between the different options being offered on the market.”

Customer Loyalty

  • Bestmed has the most loyal customers at 72.7% and is above industry par of 67.1%, up from its 2021 score of 65.7%.
  • GEMS follows at 70%, well up from its 2021 score of 61,1%.
  • Bonitas (63.2%) falls slightly from its 2021 score of 64.3%, while Medihelp (68.1%) has improved, with customer loyalty measuring above the industry par.
  • Discovery (66.8%) remains fairly static from (66.4%) in 2021, and falls just below industry par on loyalty.

Net Promoter Score

  • Net Promoter Score measures the likelihood of a person recommending a brand. Overall, the industry par on NPS of 20.1% has improved well, up by 8.3% from a low of 11,8% in 2021.
  • GEMS has the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS) at 29.2%, a dramatically positive turnaround from its crash to -9.2% in 2021.
  • GEMS customers are active brand promoters to others, with 51% of customers recommending the brand. GEMS also has the lowest number of detractors at 22%.
  • Bestmed follows with 23.7% above the industry par of 20.1% and well ahead of all other schemes. 48% of customers willingly endorse the brand to others.
  • Medihelp has an NPS of 17%, an improvement on its 2021 NPS score of 10.9%, with 44.7% of customers promoting the brand and 27% detractors.
  • Discovery has improved with an NPS of 14.3% since experiencing its lowest NPS score of 9.7% in 2021. 43% of customers actively promote the brand, while 29% are detractors.
  • Bonitas has an NPS of 8.6%, a significant decline from its NPS score in 2021 of 20.2%. Only 40% of customers actively promote the brand, and 32% are detractors.
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