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South Africa's healthcare system explained

Discover where you can find information on national health insurance in South Africa, such as how to get access to public or private healthcare.


Healthcare in South Africa is among the finest in the world. With over 200 private hospitals in the country, expats can expect a standard of care similar to that of their home countries.


A brief overview of South Africa's healthcare system


South Africa's healthcare system


The South African healthcare system is based on a two-tier system with a large, subsidised public sector and a small, high-quality private sector. In large parts of the country, there is a major gap between public and private healthcare facilities. This is because of significant funding and the most talented specialists going to the private sector. It is still highly recommended for expats to take out a private health insurance plan, even if the public sector offers discounted-priced healthcare for the lowest earners.

The Department of Health administers healthcare in South Africa. It is estimated that 73% of the population uses public healthcare, with the wealthiest 27% opting for private care.

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In South Africa, who has access to healthcare?


South Africa provides public healthcare to all, regardless of nationality or immigration status. The scheme, however, mainly serves South Africans without private health insurance. To access the best healthcare available in the country, most expat residents purchase private insurance policies.


Health insurance in South Africa


During their stay in South Africa, visitors will need to provide proof that they have taken out private health insurance. If you plan to study in South Africa, you will be required to show proof of your medical insurance when applying for your study visa. The majority of South African universities will accept insurance from any private provider as long as it covers the entire duration of your stay.

In South Africa, healthcare is paid up-front. Therefore, you need to ensure your insurance covers the fees you will need to pay and recoup them from your insurer (if applicable) after your treatment or consultation. There are many health insurance companies in South Africa, including some that offer packages tailored to expats.


How do expats register for healthcare in South Africa?


South Africa has less paperwork than many western countries when it comes to registering for healthcare. Residents can sign up at a local doctor's office by filling out a form and providing their address, personal ID such as a passport, and proof of residency.


Proof of private health insurance coverage is required if you wish to register with a private doctor and use private facilities such as hospitals and specialist services.


Private healthcare in South Africa


In South Africa, there is an extensive network of private doctors, specialists, hospitals, and clinics.


Although private healthcare accounts for around half of South Africa's annual expenditures, it is smaller than the public sector. In contrast to South Africa's heavily subsidised public services, private healthcare costs can be comparable to those of the UK, France, and Germany.


Hospitals in South Africa


There is no doubt that South Africa has some of the most advanced hospital care on the African continent. The majority of this, however, is provided by private providers at a cost. All provinces have state hospitals that provide low-cost treatment subsidised at 40%. It is primarily used by local residents who cannot afford private healthcare.


The standard and price of private hospital care in South Africa are comparable to those in many western countries. Private insurance plans usually require you to pay upfront for hospital treatment and claim back the costs later.


Healthcare in South Africa is among the finest in the world

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