JOHANNESBURG, April 1 (Reuters) - South African insurance company Discovery and mobile operator Vodacom are teaming up to offer a free, online doctor consultation service to all South Africans with coronavirus-related concerns.
Discovery had already set up an online service for its own customers but had put it on ice due to a regulatory hold-up. Now it will be open for anyone.
The 20 million rand ($1.11 million) cost of the first 100,000 consultations will be split between the two companies. Doctors sign up to the service voluntarily, with more than 5,000 registered so far.
Vodacom will also provide free access to the platform via mobile data, but only with a Vodacom sim card, meaning users will have to already be a customer or sign up to Vodacom to access the service.
Discovery CEO Adrian Gore said there was no financial benefit to the insurer from the partnership, and it would not receive a share in any revenues Vodacom earned from new customers.
He added that sources of funding would have to be explored if the number of consultations went above 100,000.
Gore also told Reuters that the company was modelling the potential impact the coronavirus will have on claims, with its businesses in South Africa and Britain a focus.
“COVID claims are certainly going to go up and we’re modelling that, but the cost of other health events are going down quite dramatically, people are not going for elective surgery, so there’s a bit of a counter balance,” he said.
There was also a much higher risk of mortality claims too, he continued, adding the insurer was “preparing carefully” for this outcome. ($1 = 17.9594 rand) (Reporting by Emma Rumney, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Jane Merriman)