How this fintech startup is helping South Africans afford medical bills

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Between 70 and 80 per cent of employed South Africans cannot afford medical aid, and do not always have cash readily available to pay for unexpected medical expenses. A local fintech startup thinks it has the answer.

Launched in 2017, Oyi has developed a prepaid medical card solution that can be used only to pay for doctors and medical services, or purchase medicines from any pharmacy.

“Increasingly, employers are unable to offer access to medical aid. Even those South Africans who can afford medical aid often run out of benefits before the year ends. Until now, there’s been no effective way to save for medical expenses other than medical aid,” Tami Ngalo, chief executive officer (CEO) of Oyi, told Disrupt Africa.

Oyi provides this solution, essentially giving users a bank account that is ring-fenced to help them to prepare for unforeseen healthcare expenses.

“The concept is simple. You put money aside at your own pace, be it monthly or as a lump sum, and use it specifically to pay doctors and buy medicine. With three different options to suit different needs, you can save for your medical expenses, and the Oyi card removes the pain of paying out of pocket medical costs once medical aid funds dry up,” Ngalo said.   

“This provides flexibility to prepare for unforeseen medical expenses while it also complements a typical medical aid. Oyi savings can also be used towards co-payments.”

The platform is aimed primarily at employers who have some staff who are not covered by medical aid, and allows for private access to quality healthcare for all employees. There are quantitative benefits for employers that use Oyi.

“Preventative treatment leads to reduced absenteeism and increased productivity, and the card also introduces a culture of saving and responsible financial practices. The low-cost solution increases staff morale with a positive impact on staff retention,” said Ngalo.

He says the solution has been “well received” in the market. 

“We have a national footprint of cardholders who have been with us since inception. We have shifted our strategy towards corporates and businesses as we believe we can make a bigger impact through the many employers who care for the employees and want to see a difference in their employees’ lives,” Ngalo said.

He believes South Africa has many opportunities in healthcare payments, meaning Oyi is laser-focused on the country for now. In the future, though, it will explore opportunities in the wider the SADC region. Growth is financed by the startup’s own revenues – it charges subscription and transaction fees – and angel investment secured in 2018. It also has the support of the AlphaCode fintech club.

“We service a highly exploited segment, and as such have taken the approach of affordability and accessibility at all costs,” said Ngalo. “So our margins are low; however our business becomes very interesting as we grow the client base.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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