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S. Africa Medical Insurers, Business Groups, Government to Fund Vaccines for Uninsured

2021-01-05 10:19:24

South African health insurance companies, business organizations and the government are developing a program in which the private sector will help fund COVID-19 vaccines for people who are not covered by insurance.

Legislation has been changed to allow the companies to fund shots for people who do not have medical insurance and talks are now focused on the number of those who can benefit, said Stavros Nicolaou, head of the Health Workgroup for B4SA, a group of South Africa & # 39; s largest business organizations. In addition to medical insurers, companies such as miners can contribute money so that their employees can be covered, he said.

"We're looking at a model of coverage for unsecured patients," he said in an interview Monday. "For every funded person there will be a contribution to the unfunded people."

The talks come as the government of South Africa is increasingly criticized by unions, health officials and opposition parties for not getting vaccines, even as at least 29 countries begin to vaccinate their populations. The country has not yet entered into direct supply agreements with pharmaceutical companies. It expects to begin receiving shots in the second quarter to cover a 10th of approximately 60 million people through the Covax Initiative, which seeks to ensure fair access to vaccines.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, as of 2019, 17% of the South African population was covered by health insurance.

South Africa, with 1.13 million confirmed infections and more than 30,000 deaths, is the country in Africa most affected by COVID-19.

Allowing medical insurers or companies to import vaccines exclusively for their own members or employees could create tensions in South Africa, one of the most unequal societies in the world. The government is already struggling to meet a host of economic challenges, with many state-owned companies relying on budget bailouts.

A panel examining how the program works is led by Adrian Gore, the CEO of Discovery Ltd., South Africa's largest medical insurance company.

The industry is also trying to accelerate the arrival of vaccines in the country, Nicolaou said.

“We have to change the public narrative,” he said. "How can you speed up the timing?"

– With the help of Roxanne Henderson.

Photo: A nurse prepares to take a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Angel Garcia / Bloomberg

Copyright 2021 Bloomberg.

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