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Two of South Africa’s most prominent medical schemes, Bonitas Medical Fund (‘Bonitas’) and Liberty Medical Scheme (‘LMS’), are in discussions to amalgamate to create an even stronger and more sustainable medical scheme that will provide enhanced cover and benefits to their respective members. If successful, the amalgamation will further entrench Bonitas’ role as a leader in the healthcare market.
With combined experience spanning over 50 years, the new amalgamated scheme will have an intricate understanding of the needs of the consumer in the complex healthcare market together with underlying financial resources to offer more cost effective options to its members without compromising member well-being.
Andrew Edwards, Executive Principal Officer for LMS says, “While negotiations are at an advanced stage, member consultation is imperative and various regulatory processes still need to be satisfied for the transaction to be concluded.”
Dr Bobby Ramasia, Principal Executive Officer for Bonitas agreed. “We will liaise with the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) to ensure that due process is followed and all necessary regulatory approvals are obtained”.
The LMS and Bonitas Boards of Trustees commissioned preliminary investigations into a possible amalgamation between the two schemes. The positive outcomes of the initial feasibility studies provided sufficient motivation for both Boards to explore an amalgamation process.
Consolidation amongst medical schemes is an increasing trend which is indicative of the current healthcare industry. “Bonitas is committed to acting in the best interests of our members at all times. This amalgamation will reinforce our size and enhance our ability to negotiate improved benefits and services with healthcare providers to ensure our members have access to affordable, quality healthcare,” says Ramasia.
“We are delighted with the opportunity and wealth of benefits it opens up to our members and financial advisers,” says Edwards.
The benefits of the potential amalgamation are numerous. Bonitas, currently administered by Medscheme, is South Africa’s second largest open medical aid. The scheme’s financial indicators are above the legislated requirements and industry average. Bonitas has one of the highest credit ratings in the industry, which is synonymous with a high claims-paying ability, in turn ensuring members access to quality healthcare.
The new scheme would have a broader national footprint; better economies of scale to negotiate better rates and improve provider networks. Bonitas’ strong financial stability and generally predictable claims history should also translate to more value for members of the new scheme.
The Bonitas and LMS product offerings will remain unchanged for the rest of 2016.
“The Boards of LMS and Bonitas entered into these amalgamation negotiations with the best interests of our members at heart. We believe this venture will be to their advantage and benefit,” says Ramasia.
Members of both schemes will be approached for consent on the amalgamation, and if member approval is obtained, then both schemes will begin the formal regulatory processes to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals. The respective, Boards of Trustees will keep stakeholders updated as and when new developments unfold.
Until such time as all legal requirements are met, the schemes continue to operate independently.