Does your medical aid offer you ongoing palliative (not only end-of-life) care?Cath Davis
Recently Discovery Health announced their new member benefits for 2022. We were thrilled to see they had enhanced their palliative care offering to cover not just end-of-life care but early access too. Palliative care, in the true sense of the term, is ongoing support on diagnosis of a serious illness.
We’re thrilled because we are no longer the lone voice out there, shouting from the rooftops – well, from our social media channels and local media platforms – about the need for and the power of access to ongoing palliative care.
We have had some help with the shouting, from our forward-thinking partner medical schemes – Bonitas and Fedhealth (with more to join us soon). They too recognised the positive impact of including comprehensive palliative care cover for their members on diagnosis of serious cancer.
Patients with serious cancer consistently report finding more comfort and support with a palliative care trained team on their side than without it. With better all-around care, less pain, and a comprehensive and holistic home-based care plan in place, patients are less likely to require emergency services, hospitalisation and ICU stays. Family members feel more supported too.
When we designed the Alignd Benefit and launched as a managed care company, it was with the knowledge that a serious illness diagnosis like cancer can be scary and overwhelming, and that quality palliative care offered on diagnosis can offer an extra layer of specialised care and support for the patient and their family when they need it most.
Almost a million South African’s have been able to access this ongoing, quality palliative care as part of their health plan cover, because their medical schemes partnered with Alignd
And yet, perhaps more than in any other area of healthcare, the status quo in palliative care is benefitting no one. The incentives generated by a hospital plan to seek care in an acute setting creates a perverse situation in which patients are living out their cancer journey in hospital when they want to be at home, and where having the patients at home would be cheaper for their medical scheme. The lack of meaningful palliative care benefits or an established way of paying palliative care practitioners means practitioners are not being fully reimbursed and often can’t afford to dedicate themselves to palliative care practice full time.
Alignd set out to resolve these barriers that were standing in the way of improved access to palliative care. And in the last two years, working with our scheme and insurance partners, that’s what we’ve done: improved patients’ and their family’s experience on their serious cancer journey and at the end of life, substantially reduced costs for schemes, and fairly reward palliative care practitioners for the highly skilled services they provide.
Almost a million South African’s have been able to access this ongoing, quality palliative care as part of their health plan cover, because their medical schemes partnered with Alignd.
And now that Discovery Health has extended their Advance Illness Benefit to include palliative care on diagnosis of a serious illness, their members will also be covered for ongoing palliative care too. We may not be a partner of theirs, but it’s good news for South Africans.
We’re looking forward to more South African medical schemes taking up this challenge: include ongoing, quality palliative care as part of your healthcare cover plans. It’s a win-win-win: patients feel more empowered and supported, it’s cost-effective, and palliative care practitioners will be fairly rewarded. Talk to us; we can help you make that happen.
And as a consumer, find out how you are covered for palliative care should you be diagnosed with serious cancer. The focus of palliative care is on providing relief from symptoms and stress. This could be by controlling a physical problem such as pain, or it could be by helping a patient with their emotional, social or spiritual needs. What makes having early access to a palliative care team special is that they will consider and coordinate all aspects of a patient’s health, and not just their cancer. If your scheme doesn’t cover you from diagnosis, ask why not?