By Tony Singleton, CEO, Turnberry Risk Management Solutions
Pregnancy and childbirth are usually occasions of great joy, but the medical expense shortfalls that go along with it can add a lot of stress. It’s also an extremely personal journey, and a choice of healthcare provider is important. The best solution is to plan your financial future carefully and have medical aid and gap cover in place well before falling pregnant, so that waiting periods are not an issue. However, life happens, and this isn’t always possible.
Parents-to-be should know that it’s never too late to get gap cover, even though waiting periods may exclude the actual birthing process if you’re already pregnant. Babies will be covered on their parents’ gap cover policy from the moment they are born, provided they are registered within 90 days of birth, which gives parents peace of mind in case of any complications. It’s also important to remember that giving birth is only the beginning of a lifelong journey, and gap cover supports you and your baby every step of the way.
Why do I need gap cover before I get pregnant?
Gap cover provides additional protection for medical expense shortfalls that are not covered by medical aid. These shortfalls include co-payments, making use of providers outside of the scheme’s network, and doctors charging more than the scheme rate. When it comes to having a baby, these additional expenses are common, and they add up to significant sums.
If you decide to give birth at a hospital that falls outside of the specified network, or your gynaecologist is not a network doctor, you will be left with out-of-pocket medical expense shortfalls. If you make the decision to have an out of hospital birth or have support from a doula, this may result in additional expenses. Should you be transferred to a hospital, the gynae may not be part of the network. The immediate emergency treatment will be covered, but the additional hospital stay may not be covered in full if you are out of network.
There’s also the matter of the anaesthetist – should you decide to have an epidural or a caesarean section, even if your doctor and hospital are in the network, you may not know who your anaesthetist is until the day of the procedure. In addition, most anaesthetists do not form part of medical scheme networks and charge above the medical aid rate.
Gap cover providers impose a 10-month exclusionary waiting period on pregnancy and childbirth, which means that these will not be covered by the policy until this period has elapsed. This is true even if you weren’t pregnant when you signed the policy but got pregnant shortly afterwards and gave birth early. Planning is the best way to minimise financial strain, but even when this isn’t possible, it’s never too late for gap cover.
Why should I get gap cover if it’s too late and I’m already pregnant?
As much as pregnancy is a time of joy, childbirth can also be fraught with complications, from congenital defects to jaundice, to the need for baby to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Some problems like cleft palates, club foot and heart defects require extensive surgery after birth, which may not be fully covered by medical schemes. The result? Medical expense shortfalls that you will be responsible for paying. When you’re on maternity leave with reduced income, how do you afford these unanticipated costs?
Having children is a journey, not a destination
When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, the focus is all on the birth of the baby. But the reality is that parenthood is not a destination, it’s a journey that lasts a lifetime, and medical expenses are part and parcel of every step of this journey. From issues arising at birth, to middle of the night emergency room visits for a fever, broken bones and stitches, there are many instances where emergency medical care is needed. These visits may not be covered by medical aid in full, but often gap cover will step in to assist.
It’s never pleasant to imagine the worst-case scenario but planning ahead and being prepared can be hugely beneficial. Gap cover can help you to start out on the right foot, so if you are planning to start a family it is best to get covered immediately.
But it’s never too late, because gap cover helps you and your child from birth and beyond, every step of the way as you navigate this never-ending journey. Parents-to-be need to speak to their financial advisors to make sure they start their new journey as parents on the right note.