Finally, A Medical Aid Is Offering DNA Tests To All Members

by | Feb 15, 2023 | Physical Health

In South Africa, having a medical aid is a must. The cover is essential, since being sick is costly and most South Africans can’t afford access to medication without it. But the healthcare industry is largely reactive, acting when there is a disease or disability that needs to be treated. Instead of being preventative, acting before the onset of disease.

Now, Fedhealth is filling the gap by offering DNA testing to members, regardless of their membership level. They’ve partnered with medical biotech company Intelligene to offer members a way to mitigate possible future health risks. Genetic testing offers a myriad of potential applications from identifying markers that could lead to disease and can even offer ideal diet outlooks.

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“Whether it’s a better understanding of themselves, avoiding unnecessary blood tests, knowing which nutrients they require more of, fine-tuning their exercise routines or taking the appropriate medication or supplements, genetic testing is hugely motivational and empowering for patients”

Dr. Christa North from Intelligene.

How the Fedhealth DNA tests work

Through the use of pharmacogenetics – the study of how a person’s genes affect the efficacy of certain medications – patients’ health can be vastly improved. They’ll know ahead of time whether a medication is likely to benefit them and is safe to take. It can also help doctors select the medications and doses best suited for each person. Which in turn could improve treatment success, as well as reduce healthcare costs. A US study from 2018 predicted that pharmacogenetic-guided medication management for depression would result in annual savings of over $3900 per year (around R67 500) per patient.

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How to apply for the DNA Test

As part of the pilot programme, Fedhealth has identified a group of members currently using chronic medication to manage one of five specific conditions, including diabetes and hypertension. They’ll offer free genetic testing to these members to test for drug-to-person interaction to identify whether the medication they’re using is doing the best possible job to manage their condition.

They’ll also be offering gene testing to members with a specific claim history to see if they’re at risk for contracting certain diseases. This testing could reveal, for example, that a person’s body doesn’t process sugar properly, which means they’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes. While they may feel healthy at the moment, knowing this now means that they can make lifestyle changes to ensure that they don’t become diabetic in future.

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The gene testing itself is painless and requires a simple cheek swab to be taken and sent to the laboratory for testing. There it is processed and over 800 000 gene data points are collected, after which it is stored in a secure vault.

If you’re voluntarily wanting to do the test, this will come from your scheme’s savings pocket. Another avenue is through Fedhealth themselves, who identify members whose health outcomes could be improved. This would then be taken from the risk-benefit of the medical scheme, says Jeremy Yatt, Principal Officer at Fedhealth. “Members and Adult beneficiaries would be able to start the process inside the scheme’s member portal i.e. Fedhealth Family Room,” says Yatt. “We will include this ability in our Fedhealth memberapp once The Intelligene app is ready in the smartphone stores.” Costs start at R2900, depending on the type of report needed from DNA testing.

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