The best time to join a medical aid is IMMEDIATELY. Ideally a person will belong to a medical aid from childhood and continue through to adulthood but this is not always possible. The moment you become economically active by the way of a job or your own business, you should sign up for medical aid. The best time is when you are young and do not need cover. Waiting to fall ill or sign up for medical aid once you need it is risky and can work against you.
Medical schemes have various penalties, exclusions and waiting periods in place to ensure that new members to a medical aid do not only sign up to claim without having contributed to the pool over time. But if you signed up for cover at least a year before you need to claim, then you can rest assured of full medical aid benefits as per the plan you chose.
Better to Join When Younger
In order to fully understand why it is better to join a medical aid when you are younger it is important to first understand how medical aids work. A medical aid scheme is a non-profit organisation that pays for legitimate medical bills for its members by pooling the member contributions together. This means that every month your medical aid will collect all premiums and pay out for those legitimate claims of members. The money is not invested in the stock market or other financial vehicles.
The idea is that there will always be more healthier members than those who are ill and need medical care. Younger people are usually healthier and are also working and pay for higher cover. So in the ideal setting this works out perfectly and the medical can pay out claims and still maintain a good financial position. However, in recent years diseases like HIV/AIDS has changed the environment as it is a disease that is more common among the young working people in South Africa.
When is the ideal age for medical aid?
There is no age limit for joining a medical aid. A person can be covered from the time of birth or even join a scheme for the first time in their senior years. However, the best time to join a medical aid is when you are younger and healthier. Medical aids add a late joiner penalty to the monthly premiums if a person joins a scheme after the age of 35 years. This penalty stays throughout the time that you on the scheme. It does not fall away after a period of time. Therefore it is best to join a scheme before you are 35 years.
However, it does not end there. Remember that all medical aids have a one year waiting period for pre-existing conditions. This means that if you have a medical condition at the time of joining the scheme, you cannot claim for bills related to the treatment of that condition for the first year of cover. You will be paying the monthly premiums but you will not be covered for 12 months. It is not only diseases. It is also applies to pregnancy. And all new members are subject to a 3 month waiting period even if there is no pre-existing condition.
As you get older, your risk for developing common medical conditions increases. It is a medical fact. You can never be sure as to when these ailments arise. The same applies with pregnancy. Once you are sexually active, a woman can fall pregnant at any time even when using protection. It therefore makes more sense to join a medical aid when you are younger, when your risk of disease is lower and when you are less likely to fall pregnant if you are being responsible and have not planned it.