By Riaan Reay | February 24, 2020
Well, we have almost completed the first two months of this year and no news from the pharmacist in my pocket.
Today I would like to address another issue that has been a sore point for me. It is the ease of access to pharmacy-related services for all paying members of medical aids, and non-paying members that make use of primary healthcare facilities.
But firstly, as always, a story to substantiate my issue. I would like to place your attention to the article written by author Roy Cokayne on Moneyweb (18 February 2020) titled: “You will soon be able to service your car anywhere”. In the first sentence, it mentions that local car manufacturers are outraged. Outraged at what? Seems all the people driving cars are quite happy about this, and that we as consumers will have the ability to exercise our choice for a more cost-effective option or paying for value-added service. The final quote in the article made by the Gunther Schmitz (from R2R) that says it is good for the industry and consumers who can now make informed choices. Even the competition commission has been included and warrants this statement. The competition commission has even drafted guidelines in which this change should operate.
Now my question is: why on earth would any member of a medical aid choose to be forced to go to a health provider he/she doesn’t know? Is this not discrimination because you form part of the middle-class (struggling middle class) who just cannot afford to pay more than 25% of their income on medical aids or medicine/health-related issues? Are medical aids not there to share the contributions of all “healthy” members to subsidize the unhealthy/sick members, or has this changed the rich vs the poor? The last seems to be more relevant, but be aware, as we continue with this socialistic view on medical aids we will surely see greater expense from your own pocket (this includes members on PARMED) or no one will be able to afford medical aids and the crippling health status of many South Africans will deteriorate even further until there is no one left to support this country.
Why am I going on like this? Well, traditional small independent pharmacies (who still have the greatest market share, however declining) seemly cannot supply services at the same rates as the corporate pharmacies. Well, I challenge the medical aids to this. You must consider that the South African Pharmacy Council set out to determine a single exit price (SEP) to pharmacies (in 2008) that is well beyond the cost that any pharmacy that is still in business charges their patients/clients. You must adapt or die. But allow the paying middle class to choose their service providers. Supporting this argument is why would you consider going to another service provider (courier pharmacies) if you live in an area where there are independent pharmacies with knowledgeable pharmacists? The same with your traditional general practitioner (family doctor). No Artificial Intelligence will be able to see the emotion behind a sick patient. We need freedom of choice.
Then secondly, isn’t there a plan called the National Development Plan (2030) in which it mentions that any South-African should have a primary healthcare facility within a 5-10km radius of his/her house? Ambitious or not, that is the way that we need to work to improve health outcomes in South Africa. Why don’t big corporates venture into smaller regions to uplift the community and prevent urbanization? Simply put, the money aspect. True, we are all in business for money, but not for the money. Why don’t we create a back your buddy campaign on small primary healthcare facilities? How about just starting out at one primary healthcare clinic per corporate store of the big chain store pharmacies? This would really show some support to your/any community and to the country.
To close my opinion, which on this topic could go on for hours in more detail, let us look at the aforementioned articles closing statement reworked to the healthcare sector: Why would the principles and remedies that lower barriers to entry and ensure that a greater number of pharmacies have the opportunity to undertake health services not be included, but excluded by big corporates/firms?. How about ensuring the fair allocation of healthcare services among approved service providers based on their competitive merits such as service quality of work and real fixed pricing systems?
Enjoy the season of stock taking and please do stock take of your health-related goals etc.