Discovery Health Medical Scheme offers members the first and only Shari’ah Compliant arrangement in the medical scheme space

From 1 June 2022, Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) members will be able to elect to have their health plan administered in accordance with principles of Shari’ah. 

DHMS is introducing the first Shari’ah compliant medical scheme arrangement in South Africa following extensive collaboration and expert guidance from leading Islamic scholars. This arrangement meets a need of the Muslim community who require closer alignment of their current health funding arrangements with all aspects of their religious practices. DHMS, in collaboration with Discovery Health as its administrator, has also worked closely with the Council for Medical Schemes over the last two years to ensure that the Takaful principles on which the Shari’ah compliant medical scheme arrangement is based, are implemented in a manner that is consistent with the Medical Schemes Act. 

The Shari’ah Compliant Arrangement is available to existing and new members of DHMS on all 23 medical aid plans, and while they cater specifically for members of the Muslim community, anyone is welcome to make this selection for a plan arrangement designed with the Shar’iah principles. 

Firoze Bhorat, Chief Marketing Officer at Discovery said, “After engaging closely with the Council for Medical Schemes, we’re excited to bring this innovation to market, effectively broadening access to medical scheme products to the Muslim community. The absence of such arrangements historically left many of the Muslim community uninsured, and we’re proud to be addressing this gap.” 

Existing DHMS members can elect to have their current plan administered in accordance with the Shari’ah principles, without any changes to their benefits or limits. This seamless process can be done within minutes either through an accredited financial adviser, or alternatively on the Discovery app or on the Discovery website any time after 6 May 2022. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly impact our country on multiple levels, it also clearly demonstrated to us the importance of placing our members at the centre of care,” says Farzana Baba, Head of Health Product Development at Discovery Health. “The past two years have challenged our healthcare system and shone a spotlight on the global focus on patient-centric care, and the need for improved quality of care and healthcare outcomes.” 

Baba adds that innovation has never been more important in the development of ground-breaking improvements to medical schemes, which ensure access is being provided to needed healthcare services which focus squarely on protecting people’s lives. 

“The Shari’ah Compliant Arrangement was developed with this in mind and in accordance with all Shari’ah guiding principles and ethics – including the Shari’ah Law regarding the prohibition of interest. Participating members also have the assurance that their contributions, and balances remaining after the settlement of claims and other relevant expenditure will be invested, in conformance with Shari’ah principles,” continues Baba. “This resets healthcare funding not only for the Muslim community but also for any member of a medical scheme who prefers to have surplus funds generated by them invested in this manner,” she explains.

Independently verified compliance with Shari’ah Principles

An independent Shari’ah Advisory Committee was established by Discovery Health to secure upfront and ongoing compliance of all DHMS products and services that are marketed as Shari’ah compliant. The DHMS Shari’ah Compliant Arrangement will be subject to regular compliance reviews and an annual compliance audit by the advisory committee comprising of leading scholars who also serve on Shari’ah boards both locally and internationally, as well as play instrumental roles in developing other Islamic products in South Africa. 

“Shari’ah compliant financial arrangements must meet the requirements found in Islamic Commercial Law and the broad principles of Islam and we have ensured that the model used to create this arrangement for Discovery Health Medical Scheme, is compliant and based on Takaful principles,” says leading Shari’ah Scholar and member of the Independent Shari’ah Advisory Committee, Mufti Ahmed Suliman. He elaborates further that “the process involved creating a Takaful scheme in a manner acceptable to local and international Islamic scholars and further ensures that no interest is earned or paid at any stage and there is no ambiguity in the contracts that are entered into by members, thus protecting their interests and assuring them that investments will indeed be managed in a Shari’ah compliant manner.” 

The Shari’ah compliant medical aid arrangement meets regulatory approval

Lastly, we are grateful to the Council for Medical Schemes (the Regulator) for their inputs and constructive engagements over the last two years. These deliberations with the Regulator have culminated in the first ever Shari’ah Compliant arrangement of its kind in the country that meets all regulatory approvals to ensure adequate and full cover for our members.

By opting into the arrangement, existing DHMS members as well as new members can be assured of peace of mind in having their health plan administered in a Shari’ah compliant manner, which is available across all DHMS medical aid plans. Importantly, existing DHMS members’ will continue to have access to their existing medical aid plan benefits when they switch to a Shari’ah Compliant arrangement,” says Baba.

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