Women face distinct challenges when it comes to healthcare financial planning. For a start, women typically live longer¹ but earn less than their male counterparts². The longer life expectancy coupled with lower career compensation means that women will face greater financial burdens when it comes to affordability of private healthcare, especially so during retirement. Women are also at greater risk for specific diseases that can lead to a major health crisis such as breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers. Women also typically take on more family responsibilities and are more likely to have breaks in their careers to take care of children and even ageing parents.

A combination of reduced income as well as putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own as primary caregiver also has the inevitable impact of delayed, or even totally neglected preventative, primary healthcare checks which could circumvent a less serious health issue from becoming a full-blown crisis.  

“It is these nuances in the income and lifestyles of women that need to be considered in your healthcare financial plan. In an increasingly tough financial environment, exacerbated by the economic impact of the pandemic, the gaps in income, savings, and affordability are widening, forcing many women into trade-offs between taking care of their immediate living needs and those of their families, and planning for an unknown health event in future. In measuring the implications of these trade-offs, it is especially important to get professional advice from a qualified healthcare broker who can help find the balance between affordability and budget right now, as well as ensuring access to private healthcare when you need it most,” explains Martin Rimmer, CEO of Sirago Underwriting Managers, a gap insurance provider underwritten by GENRIC Insurance Company.

6 key considerations for healthcare financial planning for women

Sirago highlights some of the key considerations for women when it comes to healthcare financial planning:   

  1. Medical aid cover – Given the high costs of private healthcare in South Africa and the parlous state of public health services, there is little doubt about the importance of having medical aid cover and access to private healthcare. Talk to an accredited and professional broker who will thoroughly investigate your medical scheme options in line with your budget and healthcare needs. Your broker will analyse your current day-to-day healthcare expenditure, claims history, whether you or your family have pre-existing, chronic conditions and then measure this against which benefits will provide sufficient cover.  If you have no option but to buy down on benefits due to budget constraints, your broker will be invaluable in helping you get the best cover that you can afford and understand what out-of-pocket shortfalls you could face and how to plan for self-funding them. 
  2. Gap Cover – As a supplementary cover that works hand in glove with your medical scheme benefits, gap cover is more crucial than ever given the spiralling healthcare costs and financial duress of many households.  For anyone considering a buy-down on their medical aid benefits due to financial constraints, the need for gap cover is amplified. Specialists and in-hospital charges can be up to 400% of the benefits offered by your medical scheme. So, if your medical scheme only pays out 100% or 200% of tariff for your hospitalisation and in-hospital treatment, you will be liable for the shortfall of the remaining 200-300% out of your own pocket. Most medical schemes also have deductibles and co-payments which you may be liable for upfront – these can be especially marked on lower benefit options and leave you in a serious financial predicament. Sirago’s average “large loss” gap claim now sits at around R40-60k shortfall, making gap cover an absolute essential.
  3. Make financial provision for a health crisis or disability: The impact of a serious health crisis or disabling event can have a huge impact on you, your family, and your ability to earn an income. A health crisis such as cancer may mean you are unable to work for months on end, which could leave you without an income. If you’re a stay-at-home mum, there are significant responsibilities you take on from ferrying children, providing academic support and teaching, being the major caregiver to children and ageing parents and so on – these responsibilities have a significant financial value attached to them if you need to find a trustworthy caregiver to take over these responsibilities while you are incapacitated for a few months, or possibly permanently, not to mention any special care of lifestyle adjustments you may need to make. Speak to a professional broker about insurance solutions such as income protection, disability, and critical illness cover to protect you and your loved ones should you ever face a critical illness or disabling event.
  4. Do preventative health checks – Commit to your preventative health checks every year. This way, you ensure that any potential health crisis is “nipped in the bud” early and this will have a significant impact on reducing the health, emotional, and financial consequences. 
  5. Get serious about a healthier lifestyle – Small and consistent changes to your lifestyle can have a huge impact on your overall health and directly affect the impact of what you could spend on managing your health. Drink less alcohol and more water, eat healthier foods, kick your smoking habit for good, exercise for a few minutes every day, and take care of your stress levels and mental wellbeing, especially during tough financial times.
  6. Make use of group employee benefits – If you have access toemployer group benefits, make use of them as they typically come at a lower premium due to the leverage of group buying.  Talk to your broker about the interplay between your individual and employer-provided healthcare benefits and make sure they work cohesively and that there are no gaps or duplications.

“Healthcare financial planning is important regardless of your gender, however there are certain considerations and conditions that disproportionately affect women and that should be factored into your planning and budget. The advice of a professional healthcare broker will be invaluable in helping you navigate through these important considerations and find a solution that meets your needs and budget,” concludes Rimmer.

1 – OECD (2021), Life expectancy at birth (indicator). doi: 10.1787/27e0fc9d-en (Accessed 3 August 2021). Available at: https://data.oecd.org/healthstat/life-expectancy-at-birth.htm

2 – Payscale (2021), The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2021. (Accessed 3 August 2021).  Available at:  https://www.payscale.com/data/gender-pay-gap

Information provided is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice.  Sirago Underwriting Managers (Pty) Ltd, an Authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP: 4710), underwritten by GENRIC Insurance Company Limited (FSP: 43638), an Authorised Financial Services Provider and licensed non-life Insurer.