Medical and tow-truck bills: Why you should always call your insurer first

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler on airline prices, insurance premiums and preferred providers in her 'watch-outs of the week'

18 March 2022 - 15:09
By Wendy Knowler
Contact your medical scheme to find out what you are liable for as co-payment before receiving treatment. Stock photo.
Image: Andrey Popov Contact your medical scheme to find out what you are liable for as co-payment before receiving treatment. Stock photo.

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

The early worm gets the cheapest flights

The suspension of Comair’s Kulula and British Airways flights by the SA Civil Aviation Authority for five days this week had many people accusing competitor airlines of price gouging as they scrambled to buy the last seats on competitor airlines.

The airlines have denied profiteering, saying their pricing models put a premium on the last seats sold on every flight

A FlySafair flight from Durban to Cape Town on Tuesday, March 15 was among those which sold out quickly when news broke on Sunday that the suspension of Comair’s operating licence was indefinite.

The average price of the 166 seats on that flight was R1,081, the airline’s Kirby Gordon told me, with the cheapest seat selling for R508 and the most expensive a whopping R3,583.

Given the circumstances, the last 26 of those seats sold in just over an hour on that Sunday.

The first seats sold on a flight are loss-making, and as the tickets sell they become more expensive. So don’t hesitate — buy your tickets early.

Always get your info from the “horse’s mouth”

Before Linda, a pensioner, underwent a medical procedure she told the doctor’s admin staff she was anxious that the practice wasn’t listed among her medical scheme’s “preferred providers”.

“Don’t worry,” she was told, “you’re on a good plan — they will cover the procedure.”

Linda assumed that meant she wouldn’t have to pay a shortfall, but she later got an account for R3,000, and when she protested that she’d been given misleading advice, she was told it wasn’t their fault and she should have taken out gap cover insurance.

Never take a third party’s assurance at face value — always check with the source.

Had Linda contacted her medical scheme she’d have been told what she could expect to pay as a co-payment.

This advice especially applies to tow-truck operators who assure those who’ve had car accidents that they’ve called their insurer and got approval to do the tow. In most cases that’s a lie and the motorist pays the price in all sorts of unpleasant ways.

Always call your insurer yourself, on the number you’ve previously saved in your phone.

Did you know that a low credit score affects your insurance premium?

Most people realise that your credit score not only affects whether you are granted credit, but the interest rate as well. 

Do you know, though, that your credit score also has an impact on your insurance premium?

“Not paying insurance premiums can affect your credit score, while conversely, a low credit score could see you paying more for insurance,” warns Wynand van Vuuren, client experience partner at King Price Insurance.

That all-important three-digit number tells credit providers how safe or risky you are as a customer and it’s based on a history of all the loans and credit you’ve ever taken, and how you’ve paid them back, as well as how reliable you are with your other monthly payments.

Defaulting on your insurance premiums won’t only put you in a difficult financial situation if something valuable is damaged or stolen, it could also affect your ability to get insurance or any form of credit in the future, as your credit score will be impaired.

If you’re battling to pay your premiums, rather than cancelling your policy, talk to your insurer or broker about reducing your premium, especially if you haven’t replaced your car or claimed in a while.

If that’s still not viable, at least retain third party insurance.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail:; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer

Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.