GEMS Medical Aid in South Africa: A Comprehensive Guide

GEMS (Government Employees Medical Scheme) is a prominent medical aid provider in South Africa, catering specifically to government employees and their families. Established in January 2005, GEMS aims to provide accessible and affordable healthcare to its members. This guide covers all aspects of GEMS Medical Aid, including its plans, benefits, application process, and frequently asked questions.

Overview of GEMS Medical Aid

Mission and Vision:

  • Mission: To provide equitable access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare for all government employees.
  • Vision: To be an innovative, member-centric medical scheme that meets the needs of its members while ensuring sustainability.

Membership Eligibility:

  • GEMS is primarily available to employees of the South African government and their immediate dependents. Certain categories of former government employees, such as pensioners, may also qualify.

GEMS Medical Aid Plans

GEMS offers five principal options designed to cater to different healthcare needs and budgets:

  1. Sapphire Option:
  • Target Group: Low-income earners.
  • Benefits: Basic cover for in-hospital and out-of-hospital services at public hospitals and network service providers.
  • Monthly Premiums: Lowest among all GEMS options.
  1. Beryl Option:
  • Target Group: Members needing more comprehensive cover than Sapphire.
  • Benefits: Expanded cover including private hospital access and specialist consultations.
  • Monthly Premiums: Moderate, affordable for mid-income earners.
  1. Ruby Option:
  • Target Group: Members requiring extensive cover.
  • Benefits: Comprehensive cover with high limits for hospital stays, chronic conditions, and day-to-day medical expenses.
  • Monthly Premiums: Higher, reflecting the extensive benefits.
  1. Emerald Option:
  • Target Group: Members seeking extensive private healthcare cover.
  • Benefits: Full cover for hospital stays, extensive chronic disease management, specialist consultations, and dental care.
  • Monthly Premiums: High, tailored for upper mid-income earners.
  1. Emerald Value Option (EVO):
  • Target Group: Cost-conscious members requiring comprehensive benefits.
  • Benefits: Similar to Emerald but with a focus on network providers to control costs.
  • Monthly Premiums: Lower than Emerald due to the use of network providers.
  1. Onyx Option:
  • Target Group: High-income earners or members needing premium cover.
  • Benefits: Premier cover with the highest limits for all types of medical care, including international travel insurance.
  • Monthly Premiums: Highest, reflecting the premium nature of the plan.

Benefits and Coverage

Hospital Benefits:

  • Comprehensive cover across all options, with the extent of coverage increasing from Sapphire to Onyx.
  • Includes cover for surgeries, treatments, and specialist consultations.

Chronic Disease Management:

  • Coverage for 27 Chronic Disease List (CDL) conditions.
  • Enhanced cover for additional conditions in higher options like Ruby, Emerald, and Onyx.

Day-to-Day Benefits:

  • Varies significantly between options.
  • Basic day-to-day cover in Sapphire and Beryl.
  • Extensive day-to-day benefits in Ruby, Emerald, and Onyx, including GP visits, dental care, optical services, and medication.

Preventative Care:

  • Preventative benefits such as immunizations, screenings, and wellness programs are included across all options.

Application Process

Eligibility Verification:

  • Confirm eligibility based on employment with the South African government or as a qualifying dependent.

Application Submission:

  • Applications can be submitted online through the GEMS website, via email, or through a GEMS-accredited broker.
  • Required documents include proof of employment, identification documents, and medical history forms.

Membership Activation:

  • Once approved, membership cards and information packs are issued.
  • Activation typically takes a few weeks from the date of application.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Who can join GEMS Medical Aid?

  • Government employees, their dependents, and certain categories of former government employees (e.g., pensioners).

2. How do I choose the right plan?

  • Assess your healthcare needs, budget, and preferred healthcare providers. GEMS offers tools and resources on their website to help you compare plans.

3. Can I change my plan?

  • Yes, plan changes can be made annually during the designated option change period.

4. What happens if I retire?

  • Retired government employees can retain their membership under the same conditions as active employees.

5. How are claims processed?

  • Claims can be submitted electronically by healthcare providers or manually by members. GEMS processes claims within a stipulated period, and members can track claims through the GEMS member portal.

6. What is the waiting period?

  • New members may face waiting periods for certain benefits, typically three months for general benefits and up to 12 months for pre-existing conditions.

7. How does GEMS handle emergencies?

  • Emergency medical services are covered across all options, with guidelines provided on the GEMS website for accessing emergency care.

8. How can I get in touch with GEMS?

  • GEMS can be contacted via their call center, email, or through the member portal on their website. They also have regional offices for in-person assistance.

9. What additional services does GEMS offer?

  • GEMS offers wellness programs, preventative care services, and health education resources to its members.

10. Are there any network restrictions?

  • Some plans, like the Emerald Value Option, require members to use network providers to maximize benefits and control costs.


GEMS Medical Aid provides comprehensive healthcare coverage tailored to the needs of South African government employees. With a variety of plans and a focus on affordability and accessibility, GEMS is a valuable resource for ensuring health and wellness for its members. For more detailed information, members are encouraged to visit the GEMS website or contact their support services directly.