Windhoek-The appeal board of the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) has ordered that medial aid funds are with immediate effect not permitted to offer gym rebates and other wellness programmes which are in contravention of Section 1 of the Medical Aid Funds Act. The funds were accordingly so informed.
Namfisa, as a regulatory body of the financial services sector, has a statutory mandate to exercise supervision of the business of financial services and financial institutions. This relates, inter alia, to the business of medical aid funds, which are governed by the Medical Aid Funds (MAF) Act, 23 (Act No. 23 of 1995) and subsequent regulations, directives and notices published thereunder.
Earlier this year Namfisa’s spokesperson Victoria Muranda noted that the registrar of medical aid funds had issued a directive to the medical aid funds industry, informing the said industry players that the practice of offering gym rebates and wellness programmes as part of its benefit structures to members of the said funds is in contravention of section 1 of the MAF Act. Funds were directed to comply with the said directive by December 31, 2018. Muranda added that though Namfisa supports the services offered by fitness centres and deems it a necessity to members of the public in the fulfilment of their health lifestyles and in the prevention of certain health conditions, Namfisa, through the registrar of the funds, is compelled by statute to rectify any malpractice which is in contravention of the applicable administered laws. She stressed that it is specified in the MAF Act that only a “healthcare treatment provided by a person registered in terms of any law, qualifies as a medical service”.
On August 9, 2017, an appeal was filed with the Namfisa appeal board against the decision of the registrar to allow for the phasing out of gym rebates and other wellness programmes by December 31, 2018.
The Namfisa appeal board is an independent body and can by law confirm, set aside, or vary any decision taken by the registrar of the funds. Funds were invited to oppose the appeal, however none of the funds elected to oppose the appeal.
On December 14, the appeal board set aside the decision of the registrar and substituted it with the following: “That the medical aid funds are herewith directed to comply with Section 1 of the Medical Aid Funds Act, with immediate effect.”
The registrar requires that all funds give effect to the Namfisa appeal board order.