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Affordable healthcare hacks for when you're on a tight budget.

Healthcare 4 min read

David Himmelstein once said, "Unless you’re Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Himmelstein was speaking about the crippling effects of medical expenses in the United States, but the same applies to South Africa.

Affordable healthcare hacks, you can use when the rand is low.
affordable healthcare hacks

South Africans spend more on voluntary private health insurance (42%) as a share of total health expenditure than any other country in the world. It serves, however, only 16% of the population," according to the World Health Organization. The other 84% of the population either has to fork out large sums of money to pay out of their own pockets or surrender their fates to the mercy of an ailing public health sector. We have compiled a list of affordable healthcare hacks to help you survive the unforeseen.

Healthcare Hack #1: Adopt a healthier lifestyle

The simplest way to avoid spending a fortune on healthcare is to not get sick. While illnesses can occur suddenly and without warning, many ailments that afflict South African's are linked to lifestyle choices.

In the past, the greatest threats were posed by infectious diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and HIV; today, the biggest threats are posed by diseases that are caused due to the health-damaging choices that we make in our day-to-day life. These 'lifestyle diseases' include diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), which have been slowly and quietly rising around the world. A thing as simple as ridding yourself of unhealthy habits can slash your medical bill drastically.

affordable healthcare hacks
Photographer: Anshu A | Source: Unsplash

Tip 1 – A wholesome diet is essential for your health & wellbeing. Eat more of green veggies, fresh fruits, calcium & fiber-rich foods; switch to whole grain/multi-grain flour; Reduce your portion size and eat at regular intervals; Eliminate or at least try to limit the consumption of oily food, and drink plenty of water.

Tip 2 –Strike a perfect balance between food and physical activity.

In order to keep your immune system active and functioning properly, you should participate in some of the other forms of physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, for at least 5 days a week. Simple things such as taking the stairs instead of elevators; walking your daily, doing household chores for at least 30 minutes daily; and always take a short walk after your meals can pay off in the long run.

Tip 3 – Monitor your body weight.

Extra weight, especially near the tummy, has been linked with cardiovascular deaths. People who are obese & overweight are also at risk for many more serious health conditions like sleep apnea, diabetes, and cancer. Manage your weight by eating low-calorie, fat-free food and incorporate some form of workout in your daily routine

Healthcare Hack #2: Choose generic medicine

When a brand name drug goes off-patent, another manufacturer can make a generic equivalent of that drug. Ask your health care provider if you can switch to generic medicines. (affordable healthcare hack) They have the same active ingredient but cost less than brand name drugs. Opt for generic drugs enables you to use a safe, effective treatment for significantly less money.

"Affordable healthcare hacks, if you didn't know, now you know"
Generic Medication
Photographer: Laurynas Mereckas | Source: Unsplash

Tip 1- When you give your pharmacist a prescription written by your doctor, ask your pharmacist for the generic alternative. It is considered both safe and legal for your pharmacist to dispense a generic equivalent drug for the brand name drug on the prescription unless your doctor advises against it.

Healthcare Hack #3: Get the most out of your medical aid

Getting the best medical aid doesn’t automatically mean taking the most expensive option. What you want from your benefit structure is value for money or quality medical aid cover at a price you can afford.

Tip 1-Make sure that you take advantage of any loyalty programme offered by your medical scheme. Benefits vary from product discounts to cashback, exclusive travel and retail promotions and subsidized gym memberships. Also make use of preventative health screenings, free vaccinations, and baby programmes, and you’ll be well on your way in getting the best out of your medical aid.

Healthcare Hack #4: Make the most out of the public healthcare system

The public system serves the vast majority of the population but is chronically underfunded and understaffed. While the general state of government clinics and hospitals tends to be less than desirable, but there are ways to use the public healthcare system to save your money.

public healthcare system
Photographer: Hush Naidoo | Source: Unsplash

Tip 1- The state of government hospitals and clinics varies according to where they are located. Visit clinics in your area and in more affluent parts of your city. The Office of Health Standards Compliance took an overall look at how public healthcare facilities performed in districts across all provinces. A total of 48 of 52 districts were inspected during the 2016/17 financial year, the group said. The City of Tshwane was the top performer, followed by eThekwini and Ekurhuleni; with Sedibeng and Uthukela rounding out the top five. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had the best performances, provincially.

Tip 2- Go to your local clinic for low risk and insignificant illnesses such as flu and stomach bugs and reserve major procedures for the private sector if you can afford it.

"Affordable healthcare hacks, they there when you cant afford high medical costs on the fly"

Healthcare Hack #5: Ask about Outpatient Facilities

If you need a procedure or surgery, ask your provider if you can have it done at an outpatient clinic. Often, getting care at a clinic is cheaper than having the same procedure in a hospital. Outpatient care tends to be less expensive since it is often less involved and does not require a patient's continued presence in a facility, which uses up less of the hospital or medical clinic's resources.

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