The biggest medical aids in South Africa: Discovery vs GEMS vs Bonitas and more

 ·8 Dec 2023

The Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) has published its latest medical scheme industry report, detailing the membership numbers and financial status of South Africa’s open and restricted medical aid schemes.

For the 2022/23 period, the CMS regulated 72 medical schemes, down from 75 schemes in the previous year.

South Africa’s medical schemes industry has halved over the last 22 years, with the industry consistently consolidating since 2000. At the start of the new millennium, there were 144 schemes under the CMS’s purview; now, there are only 72.

Over the same time, however, the existing schemes broadened their benefit options from an average of five plans in 2000 to an average of seven in 2022/23.

The number of beneficiaries has also increased, climbing from 6.73 million to 9.04 million over the years.

Over the last year, seven schemes showed significant expansion, the CMS said, with Bestmed, Thebemed, Medihelp, Umvuzo, Platinum Health, Retail Medical Scheme and GEMS, all demonstrating increases in their enrolments and beneficiary numbers exceeding 5%.

Bestmed showed the largest growth, boosting membership by 10%.

On the other side of the business, Sisonke Health Medical Scheme, Transmed, Lonmin, BP Medical Aid, Fedhealth, Motohealth and Cape Medical all saw declines in membership exceeding 5%.

Sisonke and Transmed both saw declines of 12% – the worst performers.

Biggest medical aids

However, outside of growth and declines, Discovery remains the largest medical scheme in the country, with 1.36 million members and close to 2.8 million beneficiaries.

This is an increase from the 1.33 million and 2.7 million seen in the year before.

Most of the country’s medical aid members are subscribed to open (O) schemes, accounting for 2.38 million members and 4.86 million beneficiaries.

Discovery makes up around 58% of these totals.

Restricted (R) medical schemes – which focus on industry-specific or company-specific coverage – make up the balance (1.75 million members and 4.2 million beneficiaries).

In this category, the Government Employee Medical Scheme (GEMS) is by far the biggest player, counting 805,500 members and 2.14 million beneficiaries (around 46% and 51% of restricted members and beneficiaries, respectively).

What is notable about South Africa;s medical scheme landscape is that only seven of 72 schemes have over 100,000 members, and only 13 have over 100,000 beneficiaries.

In fact, the top 10 schemes account for 80% of total membership in the country.

The table below outlines the 20 biggest medical schemes in the country, ranked by the number of beneficiaries.

#Medical SchemeTypeMembersBeneficiaries
1Discovery Health Medical SchemeO1 360 0452 788 312
2Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS)R787 4802 083 603
3Bonitas Medical FundO353 905729 904
4SA Police Service Medical Scheme (POLMED)R177 166491 509
5Momentum Medical SchemeO156 044296 119
6LA-Health Medical SchemeR94 697240 457
7Bestmed Medical SchemeO109 806228 968
8BankmedR104 728216 678
9MedihelpO90 871198 501
10Sizwe Hosmed Medical FundO63 577152 421
11Medshield Medical SchemeO72 807145 710
12Fedhealth Medical SchemeO65 217122 943
13Platinum HealthR56 036100 964
14Umvuzo Health Medical SchemeR47 88886 188
15SasolmedR29 27477 561
16SAMWUMedR35 71576 716
17ProfmedR36 22774 589
18KeyhealthO34 73673 161
19Chartered Accountants (SA) Medical Aid Fund R25 68347 005
20Remedi Medical Aid SchemeR20 36545 280

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