Can I use my DAN membership to replace my medical aid plan?

Firstly, DAN-SA is not registered as a medical scheme in terms of the Medical Schemes Act. As such. DAN-SA is actually legally prohibited from providing the services of a medical scheme as defined in the Act. For that reason, medical expenses for non-diving injuries and accidents may only be covered outside of the DAN-SA member’s country of residence. Divers are sometimes tempted to “work the system” by joining outside of Southern Africa in the hope that they will then be taken to a South African medical facility and have their medical treatment paid for. Unfortunately for them, this ploy often backfires badly. If you join in a country other than South Africa, the evacuation benefits are aimed at repatriating you to that country. So if you choose to join as a member of your country of residence, evacuation will be back to your country of residence. In case of a diving emergency, of course, the whereabouts of the nearest, most appropriate recompression facility will determine the evacuation destination, so divers will be taken care of in the most appropriate facilities. However, when it comes to regular medical problems, we strongly recommend that you get a proper medical aid or an expatriate medical insurance plan to return you to South Africa. 
Secondly, DAN-SA membership provides benefits, not insurance. DAN-SA is the owner of a group policy with benefits that are extended to its members. DAN-SA is the insured party and DAN-SA members receive the benefits of DAN-SA’s insurance. The selection of benefits offered to DAN-SA members were therefore designed specifically to provide optimal diving emergency support (i.e. in terms of both emergency assistance and treatment) and to include a useful number of travel insurance benefits to accommodate common travel and medical emergency situations. However, DAN-SA cover can only include a limited number of emergency-related injuries and illnesses. The emphasis remains on emergency medical benefits. So, DAN-SA cannot replace your medical aid. 

Perhaps you may now be asking why have a DAN-SA membership at all? That is a fair question. It is true that some medical aids include cover for diving injuries. However, divers who have tried to go this route soon discover that it is not easy to work with a medical aid when trying to organise an emergency evacuation for a diving injury. That is simply not the time to discover that your medical aid is not able to assist you in getting the most appropriate treatment or advice. Their convenient 0800 toll-free number doesn’t work in Zanzibar and even in South Africa, working your way through a multi-prompt menu from a cell phone is not what you need in a crisis. Also, getting documented authorisations takes time and nearly all private emergency service providers now insist on a written GOP before responding. That is not surprising given that most aeromedical evacuations in Africa come in at R200 000 or more and even evacuations by ambulance approach R20 000 plus when advanced life support services are involved. Evacuations are costly. Recompression, on the other hand, is not that expensive in Africa. In Europe, it may set you back about R100 000, but in South Africa the cost is usually under R20 000 unless multiple treatments are needed. However, if evacuation and hospitalisation are called for, the costs can be very high. 
As a DAN-SA member, all these concerns disappear. One number and you have all the help and cover you need for a diving emergency. The travel and medical benefits are an added bonus, but don’t tear up your medical aid card just yet. So, should a diver have a medical aid or be a DAN-SA member? A diver it should be both! However here are some question to consider asking your medical aid service.
  • Will my medical aid cover me in the event of a scuba diving accident?
  • What is maximum depth the medical aid will cover me for in the event of a diving accident?
  • Will my medical aid cover hyperbaric oxygen treatment should I require recompression for DCS?
  • Does my medical aid cover me locally as well as internationally for diving related accidents?
  • What are the exclusion and or limitations of the medical aid cover regarding scuba diving activities?
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