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Year-end message from our chairman

As 2019 passes and a new decade dawns, I look back, as I do every year, over the highs and lows; 2019 is no exception. Once again, legislative uncertainty affected our markets, and this year healthcare has been one of the major points of focus. The negativity around the pending NHI implementation has been all but deafening. However, the Trustees remain cautiously optimistic that a sensible way forward will be found to provide equitable healthcare to all without sacrificing the private sector as we know it, at least for the foreseeable future.

While not as emotionally fiery, the final Health Market Inquiry Report was published, which we anticipate will inform the Medical Schemes Amendment Bill. This piece of legislation will have a far more profound effect on medical schemes, and the Trustees are watching this carefully.

Looking back on the second decade of the 21st century, it has been marked by an economy that has been stubbornly sluggish as it draws to a close. I can report the Scheme’s investment returns have perked up marginally, coming off an exceptionally low base at the close of 2018, to some measure due to our Investment Committee’s continued diligence and hard work. There are flickers of hope that the tide may turn in 2020.

The old adage ‘what goes up, must come down’ does not appear to hold true when speaking about medical costs, however, I am pleased to report that as the year draws to an end, we should squeak home within budget. The ageing trend of our membership appears to be plateauing as new young members continue to trickle into the Scheme, which is good news as it should help slow the average healthcare-utilisation upward trend.

When determining the annual benefit and contribution increases, the Board of Trustees remains vigilant in trying to achieve acareful balance between our members’ financial circumstances and their benefit expectations. Planning for 2020 was a challenge, but with the help of our administrator and actuaries, we are confident that the Scheme’s resources will be adequate to fulfil long-term needs while continuing to provide benefits that are good value for money.

The close of 2019 will also see the end of an era as I express my gratitude to the Trustees who will be leaving the Board following our recent election. In bidding farewell to Campbell McKie Thomson, Gavin Preston, Grant Howell and Philip Laubscher, we are saying goodbye to a total of 39 years of service. I sincerely thank them for their unwavering commitment to the Scheme and its members. We wish them all the very best. I would also like to acknowledge the valuable roles of our outgoing Alternate Trustees, Dr Charles Mbekeni and Lin Sanford, who not only stood in for Trustees when they were not available, but also participated, on a voluntary basis, on Committees and in Scheme meetings on a regular basis.

I congratulate and welcome our new Trustees, Frank Fox, Hugh Thompson and James Liston, who have all served on the Board at different times in different capacities, and Philile Mhlongo, Nare Mamabolo and Ray Moodley. Mary Farrell and Sharon Hosking will be taking up roles as Alternate Trustees.

My best wishes to all our members for a joyous festive season and a positive start to the next decade.

Colleen Elliott

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