Press release -
Discovery Health Medical Scheme launches WELLTH Fund in the hope of kickstarting a trend of preventative care
- The COVID-19 pandemic impact to healthcare system led to consumers deferring non-COVID related healthcare
- General health checks were down 50% at the peak of the pandemic compared to pre-COVID levels
- Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) members now have access to an additional screening and preventative benefit called the WELLTH Fund
- Medical aid members on all plans have a once-off access during 2023 and 2024 to up to R10,000 per family for an expanded range of screening and preventative healthcare.
25 January 2023
Following the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) is making a significant investment in the long-term health of its members through the launch of the WELLTH Fund. This additional screening and preventative benefit is designed to help members reset their understanding of their personal health. As a once-off opportunity, members will have access to an additional benefit of up to R10,000 per family for an expanded range of screenings.
This discretionary healthcare benefit is available across all medical aid plan types (all of which are Shariah compliant) from 1 January 2023 until 31 December 2024. New members joining DHMS also automatically qualify to access the Fund.
Addressing the media earlier today, Dr Ryan Noach, CEO of Discovery Health, said that “After three incredibly difficult years which took their toll on people’s health in so many respects, DHMS is encouraging its members to put themselves first – and prioritise their health checks. The WELLTH Fund is designed to catch health concerns early before they develop into more complex diseases and pose a greater risk to people’s health.”
Screening rates have dropped significantly since the end of 2019
“Our data clearly demonstrate, in line with global experience, that the COVID-19 pandemic caused people to defer non-COVID related healthcare. People who were fearful of contracting COVID-19 at healthcare facilities missed essential screening and health checks, and consequently may have missed opportunities to detect early health risks,” explains Dr Noach.
“General health checks were down by 50% at the peak of the pandemic when compared to pre-COVID levels, mammograms down by 15%, and pap smears down by 12%,” Noach went on to say, describing how this reduction in screening was experienced across all screening categories.
The time has come for everyone to focus on reversing this trend. “We are noting some concerning long-term trends in the development of diabetes and cardiac conditions post-COVID-19 infections,” he explains. “Currently we’re seeing a 2.75 times higher risk of diabetes development among South Africans who’ve recovered from a COVID-19 infection. This jumps to five times higher if an individual was hospitalised for treatment, because of COVID-19. Similar trends are notable where cardiac conditions are concerned,” he adds further. “The risk of developing cardiac conditions post a COVID-19 infection is currently 1.5 times higher, and as much as 3.5 times higher if an individual had been hospitalised during their COVID-19 related illness.”
Routine health screenings can become a turning point in one’s health, by positively impacting their overall lifespan (or life expectancy), as well as the years spent in good health.
When it comes to diseases such as diabetes or any other chronic illness, early detection is fundamental to limiting serious complications and reducing costs in the long term.
“We expect that the long-term improvement in the health of members leads to a long-term reduction in claims, with every R1 of medical scheme investment in screening leading to a R9 reduction in long-term claims,” he added. Whilst this economic benefit for the scheme is valuable, the improved health and quality of life for the members is the core focus and contributes to society.
The principle that defines the WELLTH Fund is that prevention is better than cure. We are encouraged to take the best care of ourselves and our loved ones – because our health is fundamentally our greatest form of wellth.
How to activate the WELLTH FUND
Members of the Discovery Health Medical Scheme will be able to access the full amount of their allocated WELLTH Fund anytime during the two-year period (January 2023 to December 2024), regardless of when the benefit was activated. The WELLTH Fund will be activated once all beneficiaries on the policy have completed their initial health checks. For adults, this is the annual Health Check (funded from the Screening and Prevention Benefit), and for children (two years and older), this is the annual digital Kids Health Review.
The initial Health Check is an important screening tool that involves the following tests – blood pressure; blood glucose; cholesterol; and Body Mass Index (BMI). The assessment also includes a non-smoker’s declaration and HIV screening. Health Checks can be completed in-person at a Discovery Store, an accredited pharmacy, a GP’s rooms or at an employer’s Wellness Day.
Once the WELLTH Fund is activated, each adult beneficiary will be allocated an amount of R2,500, and children between the ages of 2 and 18 will be allocated R1,250 each, up to a limit of R10 000 per policy. Kids under the age of two will still have full access to the fund once a primary member has activated the benefit.
DHMS recognises all health checks completed during 2022 for this purpose, and as of 16 January 2023, the Scheme has already activated the WELLTH Fund for more than 170,000 policies.
The WELLTH Fund gives members access to six broad categories of health screening services. These include:
- General health screenings
- Physical health screening
- Mental health screening
- Women and men’s specific health screening
- Children’s specific health screening
- Medical monitoring devices for condition management purposes
To read more about the additional screenings available click here.
Members can consult with any medical doctor or healthcare provider, provided that their professional services are within their scope of practice – which means the healthcare professional must be a specialist that is qualified to perform the specific tests.
The usual general exclusions according to specific medical plans and a member’s plan network rules may still apply. Members should ensure they take note of their plan-specific benefit rules to access the full advantages of the WELLTH Fund relevant to their particular medical aid plan.
NOTE TO EDITORS
A note on the rise of mental health conditions:
Ryan Noach explains: “Our data also reveals that prevalence of mental health conditions increased by 19% since 2019 too. This is largely driven by a 24% increase in prevalence of depression. We noted an uptick in psychologist and psychiatrist consultations with 36% and 12%, respectively. This is another worrying trend we’re seeing, with mental health prevalence having been on the increase in the pre-Covid period, but this has now accelerated tremendously.”
About Discovery Ltd
Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life insurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment, and wellness markets. Since inception in 1992, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-value Insurance model, active in over 40 markets with over 20 million members. The model is exported and scaled through the Global Vitality Network, an alliance of some of the largest insurers across key markets, including Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and South America.
In 2021, Vitality Health International (VHI) introduced shared-value health insurance to employer groups operating in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, as well as Travel for Treatment service to the rest of Africa.
Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as DSY. Discovery Group is the holding company of Vitality Group in the USA and of Vitality UK.