A sample of 2 105 private medical aid policyholders in South Africa gave the health insurance industry a satisfaction score of 74.2 out of 100 in the latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi), which is virtually unchanged since the last measure in 2015.
The industry is seeing a change in the leading brand for the first time in three years, with Liberty moving from a below par performance in 2014 to being named as industry leader this year.
The six companies included in the Medical Aids survey were Bonitas, Discovery Health, Liberty Health, Medihelp, GEMS and Momentum Health based on their market share.
Liberty made remarkable progress and scored an industry-leading 76.9 out of 100. Momentum Health, Bonitas and Discovery Health scored on par with industry at 75.6, 75.2 and 74.1 out of 100 respectively. Medihelp and GEMS scored below par at 70.7 and 67.5 respectively. In the case of GEMS, the seven point decline in its score since 2014 is really concerning.
The overall satisfaction score is in line with other insurance products released in the past two months, which indicated slightly higher satisfaction with short term and life insurance brands in South Africa.
SAcsi looked at satisfaction with the three types of medical plans: comprehensive, network schemes and hospital plans. This showed that customers on comprehensive plans were more satisfied (76.1) than those on hospital plans (72.2) or network options (70.3). Customers who have experienced rejected claims report dramatically lower overall satisfaction levels of 63.3.
Prof Adrè Schreuder, CEO of Consulta and founder of SAcsi, says that overall perceived values are low. “Private healthcare in South Africa is becoming a grudge purchase, so these companies should be looking to actively improve the perceived value scores.” It is particularly evident that the economy and customer perception of a lack of value had an effect as the industry’s perceived value score declined by 1.3 index points since 2014. Only two brands showed increased value in the year-on-year comparison – Liberty and Momentum Health.
Given the fact that customer expectations remain high it is concerning that all of the brands fail to meet expectations in terms of reliability as they report that things go wrong more often than expected. Schreuder says that this may be due to the fact that as a relatively expensive product, customers have high expectations of medical aids. “GEMS customers reported the lowest perceived quality scores. Momentum, Bonitas and Discovery Health scored on par with the industry average and Liberty is leading the market,” he says.
Prof. Schreuder says that it is clear that South African medical aids are working to reduce the number of complaints and improve how they are handled, as evidenced by significantly fewer complaints. “Medical aids are a high touch industry, meaning that there is a lot of interaction with the brands. Liberty has reported less than half the number of complaints since last year, reducing this from 23% of customers to 10.4% of customers. In addition, they improved how complaints are handled. Momentum has the highest score in the industry when it comes to handling complaints satisfactorily,” says Schreuder.
Consulta holds a licence with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and forms part of a growing number of ACSI-licensed partner countries worldwide, which allows South Africa to compare customer satisfaction in various industries with this global community. This shows that South African healthcare insurers obtained significantly higher overall scores than the US. While GEMS is performing at the lower end of the scale, the other South African healthcare providers compare favourably with their counterparts in the US and Singapore.