Joburg Expat: Healthcare for Expats in South Africa

July 19, 2015

Healthcare for Expats in South Africa

Perhaps you'll remember that it didn't take long for our family to make the acquaintance with a hospital after moving to South Africa in 2010.

  • Less than a month in I was struck down by tick bite fever, except I didn't know it, and ended up going to the emergency room. 
  • About a year later, over New Year's, our  youngest daughter Sunshine made an unpleasant acquaintance with the corner of a night stand when jumping on the bed with her brother Jabulani and needed several stitches in her forehead. 
  • A bit later, that same brother in turn made an even more unpleasant acquaintance with the foot of an attacking soccer player when trying to save the goal, and needed surgery on his arm. 
  • Not to mention getting the whole family vaccinated for yellow fever, getting tested for concussions after rugby matches, and keeping an orthodontist busy around the clock with three out of four kids with more wiring in their mouths than behind your cable box.



The good news in all that? Let's just say that we definitely got our money's worth out of our global healthcare plan!

Are you moving to South Africa? Then you better get yourself such a plan too. The following is a guest post sponsored by Medibroker International, a company providing broker services for expats looking for international health insurance. 

Expat Healthcare in South Africa


You might have chosen South Africa as your expat destination for a dazzling job opportunity, the warm climate or for the expat lifestyle; but chances are you have a few concerns about your move.


Safety is a daunting issue for most expats planning a move to South Africa. Just as you take steps to protect yourself, it’s also important to get protection for your health and finances by purchasing private medical insurance. It’s boring, it’s unavoidable; but Medibroker International can make it simple.


Looking after your health should be your number one priority when moving to a country with an infamously fragmented health system. There is a vast gap between public and private health facilities in South Africa which makes a comprehensive health insurance plan essential if you’re going to be living there for any length of time over 12 months.


Johannesburg Healthcare

While the City of Gold has the most medical facilities in South Africa, the standards of these hospitals and clinics vary. In fact, Johannesburg has a long way to go before it fulfils its ambition to be ‘One City One Health System’.

Public Healthcare and Local Health Insurance in South Africa

It’s wise to avoid relying on South Africa’s public healthcare system if you are an expat. At present it is overburdened by locals and seriously underfunded. Things like poor sanitation, substandard housing and unjust social conditions have put a real strain on publically funded healthcare in the country. Public hospitals are generally understaffed, lacking even basic supplies.

Local health insurance can also be unreliable in South Africa – there are horror stories of local insurers cancelling cover when a policyholder notifies them of required treatment. This leaves the policy holder uninsured in their time of need and faced with the near-impossible task of finding a plan that will cover them for a condition which is then classed as pre-existing.


Private Healthcare in South Africa

Fortunately, expats can benefit from private healthcare systems in South Africa of a world class standard. In fact, Johannesburg’s private healthcare is the most robust in all of Africa.

Private healthcare currently accounts for around 55% of the country’s spending on healthcare. To access the best facilities, you will need private health insurance. Buying a policy before you go will help alleviate any apprehensiveness you may have about seeing a medical professional in a new country because you are usually able to choose your Doctor. Staff in private facilities are highly trained and you will benefit from shorter waiting times in addition to an increased quality of care.


In South Africa expats will typically pay for medical bills as they are incurred and each service is usually paid for separately. You can then use your receipts to claim a refund from your insurer by submitting a claim.


Health Insurance for South Africa

An international health insurance plan is often the best option for expatriates living in South Africa, particularly if they will be travelling outside of the country or would prefer to receive medical treatment elsewhere. International cover has become more sought after among Brits now that the NHS crackdown will affect repatriates.

Steve Nelson, sales advisor at Medibroker says:  “With many international plan providers to choose from it is important that you get the right level of cover for you and your family. It is important to consider benefit levels, scope and cover and of course any exclusions. Getting this wrong can leave you exposed to hefty medical bills that you will have to meet yourself.”


If you are working in South Africa or are on an international assignment and your company does offer a benefits package that includes private healthcare, you should question the extent of that cover. Does it include maternity? Are your family covered? What about medical evacuation cover?


Medibroker provide a completely free and impartial broker service to expats looking for international health insurance. They will make sure they understand your needs before recommending a suitable health plan from a portfolio of over 30 providers. Request a quote today.