Rebate ban a lose-lose situation

11 January 2018 | Health

Local gym owner Henk Cloete believes the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) has made a big mistake by doing away with gym rebates.

This, he says, will not only have the effect of making gyms unaffordable for many people, but will also prove costly for medical aid schemes that will have to pay for treatment of chronic illnesses that could have been prevented or managed with exercise.

He made the comments in a brief interview with Namibian Sun at his gym this week.

Cloete said he believes Namfisa was forced into issuing a directive that prohibits medical aid schemes from paying rebates to active gym members who exercised regularly.

Giving his take on the matter, he said Namfisa was not acting in the interest of the nation.

“I think Namfisa is doing a lot of damage and they have made a big mistake. This is going to keep people who would have liked to gym, but could not afford the high rates, from exercising. Many people used the services of a gym because they could claim their rebate from their medical aids,” Cloete said.

The removal of the rebates not only means a loss of income for gyms, but will also harm the health of people who need exercise to prevent or manage chronic illness.

“The gyms will suffer yes, but so will the people,” said Cloete.

He felt that Namfisa could have amended the relevant legislation instead of outlawing gym rebates.

“I think Namfisa took the easy way out. The better decision would have been to amend the law and I believe there is something sinister behind this. I cannot prove it now but there is someone behind this,” Cloete said.

He also believes that medical aid fund members will now claim more for medical treatment.

“People [who exercised] claimed less from their medical aids and this helped the medical aids. People will suffer the most because of this new directive. It is equally bad for the medical aid service providers. As a result of a bad law, people will suffer the most, everyone will lose,” Cloete said.

“We will lose some clients who could only afford to gym because of the rebate. Some people signed up because they could use the rebate to subsidise their membership fees. We will lose those clients who cannot afford to pay,” Cloete said.

“It is not a win-win situation, it is a lose-lose situation for the gyms and the medical aids.”

BRG Biokinetics Namibia board member Michiel Greeff shared Cloete's sentiments and said the new directive would affect biokineticists too.

“The removal of the rebate will affect us negatively,” he said briefly when approached for comment.

Namfisa announced last year that medical aid funds would no longer be allowed to offer gym rebates or other “wellness” benefits to their members.

Namfisa spokesperson Victoria Muranda said the registrar of medical aid funds had issued a directive stating that gym rebates and wellness programmes were in contravention of section 1 of the Medical Aid Fund Act.

Wellness benefits include rebates on gym membership, quit-smoking programmes, walking clubs, boot-camp fitness training and cooking classes.

Funds were directed to comply with the directive by 31 December 2017.

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