Let’s hope Barbie has health insurance
24 Aug, 2023

Farzana Botha, Segment Manager at Sanlam Risk and Savings and Michelle Morton, Commercial Executive at Fedhealth, a partner of Sanlam Health Solutions


Spoiler Alert: In the final scene, Barbie heads to the gynaecologist. Let’s hope she’d already signed up for health insurance as specialist visits are critical but costly. Regular check-ups save lives and should be a crucial part of women’s healthcare routines. Budgeting for these and other women-specific healthcare costs should be a top priority. Given that women live about 5 years longer than men, but earn less, Sanlam Health Solutions suggests that women start saving for health requirements as early as possible.


Farzana Botha, Segment Manager at Sanlam Risk and Savings, says, “Women should try to prioritise present and future healthcare needs, which is difficult to do when budgets are tight. Consider bolstering retirement savings to boost your retirement income for future healthcare needs. This comes with the added benefit of a tax deduction, making it a smart way to maximise your budget, while making provision for the care you may require later.”


Michelle Morton, Commercial Executive at Fedhealth, a partner of Sanlam Health Solutions, says women have several unique healthcare challenges compared to men. Some of these include:


  • Reproductive healthcare: Women require specialised healthcare services related to reproductive health throughout all stages of their lives, such as contraception, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. These services can be costly and may require additional planning and budgeting.


  • Longer life expectancy: Women tend to live longer than men, which means they may need more funds to cover healthcare expenses and chronic health conditions.


  • Gender-specific conditions: Certain conditions, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis, predominantly affect women. The treatment and management of these conditions can be expensive.


  • Caregiving responsibilities: Women often take on more caregiving responsibilities, which can lead to higher stress levels and may result in them neglecting their own healthcare needs. Additionally, this can impact women’s ability to work full-time or pursue career advancements, affecting their income and ability to save for healthcare expenses.


  • Gender pay gap: Women, on average, tend to earn less than their male counterparts, for equivalent work. This gap may limit their ability to save adequately for healthcare costs.



The Motherhood Pay Gap


PwC recently reported that mothers’ earnings drop by 60% compared to fathers in the decade following the birth of their first child. They call this the ‘motherhood penalty’ and name it the most comprehensive driver of the gender pay gap. It has a material impact on how much women can contribute toward healthcare provision and pensions.


Planning is key to help minimise the ‘money’ impact and ensure women can access the care they need.


Morton suggests that women thinking of having a baby should:


  • Join a medical aid scheme before falling pregnant as most medical schemes have a 12-month waiting period for any pre-existing medical condition, including pregnancy. The same goes for gap cover.


  • If you’re already a medical aid member, review your cover to understand what pregnancy-related services are included, such as prenatal care, delivery and post-natal care. Know your potential out-of-pocket expenses and weigh up whether it’s worth increasing your cover. “Fedhealth for example lets you upgrade your plan within 30-days of a life-changing event like falling pregnant, so you can ensure you have the cover you need.”


  • Research healthcare costs, so you can budget for these as well as unexpected expenses. This may call for some smart reshuffling and cost cutting, in partnership with a trusted financial adviser. Remember to include post-natal care, such as a visit to a lactation consultant.


  • Plan for your maternity leave: Review your company’s maternity leave policy and consider the potential impact of a reduced income. Start to plan for this by increasing your savings and seeking ways to cut costs.


  • Seek prenatal care early on: This can help identify any potential health concerns and treat these promptly, which can reduce healthcare costs in the long run.


  • Negotiate! Specialists and doctors are nearly always willing to negotiate their rates and often offer a discount if you pay for delivery costs upfront, for example. If you don’t have medical aid, make sure the specialist/ doctor knows this and ask if a reduced rate is an option.


 Planning for healthcare, now and later


Given women’s longer life expectancy, reproductive healthcare requirements, possible career interruptions, and gender-specific conditions, a financial roadmap to optimal outcomes is a good idea. Partnering with a trusted financial planner could make a massive difference to address healthcare provision holistically.


Morton says proactive planning is key. “Consider flexible medical aid options that are life-stage-based and designed to give you the cover you need in specific chapters of your journey. Some insurance companies also offer women-specific plans that focus on covering conditions like breast or cervical cancer. Critical illness cover is another strong consideration, providing a lump sum pay-out in the event of a specified critical illness. This can be valuable for women at a higher risk of certain illnesses, such as breast cancer.


“Additionally, think about income protection to provide a regular income should you be unable to work due to illness or injury; this is especially important for women who are the primary earners in their households. When selecting any insurance, carefully review the policy terms to know the cover limits, exclusions and premium costs. An adviser can help you choose the right options for your circumstances and goals.”






@Farzana Botha
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@Michelle Morton
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