Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Shariaa dictates that we must strive to maintain five main necessities: religion, spirit, progeny, mind and wealth. Thus, we are Islamically obliged to seek medical care when needed. The Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) contemporaries relate that he encouraged the public to “make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.”
Medical care has become unaffordable for many individuals and impossible for those whose states do not offer free care or sufficient resources.
In response, states are implementing plans to reduce ever-rising costs, most notably including health insurance schemes.
Many health insurance companies operate in accordance with the principle of takaful, or mutual insurance in accordance with Shariaa, as opposed to commercial insurance policies which are Islamically prohibited (haram). Prominent scholars proscribed commercial insurance with the exception of hospitals, as they offer medical services in return for insurance, rendering the exchange mutual and Islamically permitted (halal).
Those selling insurance policies are either insurance companies that specialize in medical insurance or general insurance companies. Hospitals sell their services to insurance companies not to patients, and thus medical insurance is no different from any other type of insurance in terms of being haram and halal.
Saudi Arabia recently set up a Health Insurance Council, which has implemented standards for health insurance companies and medical institutions and drafted codes of regulation. However, in order to be successful, I believe the Council must implement the following:
1- The requirement that medical insurance companies offer Islamic mutual insurance, and this is what the cabinet stipulates upon in general. As we are a society that adheres to religion, the authority of Shariaa is considered paramount to that of an individual choice. Consequently, if medical insurance does not comply with Shariah rulings then many people will not participate.
2- The allocation of courts for insurance-related cases to restore confidence in those who avoid insurance schemes because of the difficulty of conveying complaints, queries and litigation.
3- A unified insurance policy to balance the rights and duties of the concerned parties, drafted by a neutral party; namely, the Health Insurance Council.
4- The requirement that health insurance companies offer a reasonable minimal level of insurance to all clients.
5- An awareness campaign about the importance of health insurance through conferences, seminars, media and targeted advertising.