The Burden of Medical Expenses

Before I begin, I would like to make it clear that I’m just a concerned individual of this Ummah. I’m neither learned nor wise enough to understand the Islamic law. The opinions expressed are my individual and doesn’t have to match the reality.

As I understand the muslim ummah is going through a very tough time.Majority of the ummah is either in poverty or below poverty with limited or no access to basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.Many of the families have only one source of income, only one breadwinner. In this troubled times if a member of the family gets any disease small or big they do not have the means to afford.

Surviving with proper meals itself has become a challenge. They have enough in their lives to deal with. If they get sick for even a week with minor fever and are not able to attend their jobs, they lose on their regular income, sometimes even go under debt to meet their basic necessities of food and shelter.

Now, I share my own personal experience of one such case. I came to know from one of my colleague about an old and noble individual admitted in hospital diagnosed with diabetes and has an infection in his leg. The infection started as a small wound and spread through his entire leg to such a stage that he had to be admitted in hospital. The doctors recommended that his leg be amputated.

This person has spent most of his life calling people towards Islam. People around him want to help him because of his nobility as he doesn’t have money or assets to bear the hospital expenses. But the people around him are also going through the same stages of life, going hungry if not earned for a day. Living life neck to neck. The doctor treating him is also a brother in faith, he has forgone his fees but still the expenses of hospital bed, operation expenses and medicines is out of reach for people around him. They have collected money from nearby mosques, people they know to treat him. My colleague stays in the same locality, goes to the same mosque and he visits this person and prays for his well being.

My colleague has recently borrowed some money for his personal expenses and he is in debt for his basic necessities, lives in a rented one room house with wife and 2 kids. He is not in a position to help his neighbor apart from praying for his well being. He requests this person to ask Allah for a return for his sacrifices made during his life. He requests this person to make dua to get out of this trouble as the people who were trapped in a cave did. Thinking of their most noble act in the lifetime and seeking Allah’s help in removing the stone if that act was sincere. The 3 men present their most noble and sincere acts to get rid of the stone which trapped them in the cave.

The question here is why are we in this situation of not able to afford the basic necessities including the medical expenses and why we can’t have medical insurance. Now, let’s look at how medical insurance is viewed in the eyes of practicing muslims. Insurance of any sort is haraam there is no doubt about that, but is it always haraam?

My colleague who works with me in one of the most reputed MNC for past 7 years has never used the medical insurance provided to him by the company because he considers it as haraam. He got married and have 2 kids after joining the company. He has insurance in his name and for his family from the company, and this is included in his package (Cost to Company (CTC)).

I tried to reason with him, which I may be completely wrong as acknowledged in the first para that I’m neither knowledgeable nor wise to understand the Islamic law. I explained him that insurance if taken by choice is haraam, but this insurance is provided by the company, part of your CTC. Company is taking responsibility for your health, now how it does is not our concern, it can either open its own hospital or have some tie-up or have medical insurance issued to all its employees.

Let’s say we should be on the safer side (taqwa) of not utilizing the medical insurance, but is that reasonable? Are we financially stable enough to take care of the medical expenses which just goes higher and higher. My colleague is struggling to make ends meet, have debt for his basic necessities, has a monthly salary of less than USD 400. He has never used his medical insurance in the past 7 years and is in debt. He says he knows there’s insurance and many of his co-workers (non-muslims) even make fake bills to get some extra money apart from the medical expenses Look at our non-muslim brothers they not only use company insurance, they have a third party insurance which would cover all the diseases and would be for life time as the company provided insurance ends once you resign the company. And the premium for medical insurance gets higher with the age, so they have a third party insurance from a long term perspective. This third party insurance is out of question for us, we can’t take insurance by choice, company insurance is somewhat justified. So, non-muslims can have company insurance, third party insurance and can be assured that their pockets won’t be hurt with medical expenses.

But we are not only loosing on the opportunity of third party insurance but are also leaving the company provided insurance. Now, let’s say around 2000 employees such as my colleague has left the company provided insurance and have instead spent from their pockets for everything. If we even consider the case of just the deliveries of his babies which were by cesarean it would be around USD 500/ baby. So for 2000 such employees the amount spent from the pockets when the insurance was available would be 1 million USD. And whose loss is that? And whose gain is that? Maybe gain for the insurance company and loss for individuals?

Who are these individuals? I believe we as an individual do not have any identity, it is the ummah. The ummah lost a million dollars, which could have been used for a few handful of needy brothers. But does these individuals think that way? Do we ever think what impact our actions can have on a collective level?

I have been very depressed thinking about such things, the system is against us. And we are not talking about luxuries, it’s about basic necessities, about survival. I asked the Imam of my mosque about this issue. I explained the entire situation and asked him about the solution, about what he thinks. He told me that he knows about people who come in juma prayers for alms presenting their medical bills and such people come almost every juma, but people don’t give donations after 2 or 3 weeks, they feel that this person has made this as routine. The people feel that the person is not in genuine need instead he is using this to earn money and so they stop giving him donation. The reality is even after a minor disease or operation the medical expenses run around USD 1500. The collection after a juma is only around USD 20-25. So, how many juma would this person has to come to pay of his medical expenses? 50?60? And we have so wrong presumptions that after 2-3 weeks we start thinking that the person has made begging as his lifestyle. And the Imam told me that he prefers that people take Insurance than beg. I don’t agree with this opinion as it is not allowed in Islam.

But, what is the solution to this problem? How to overcome this situation of the ummah. This needs to be given some serious thought on a global level, if there is no other way but to change system or to be patient unless system changes then it has to come out. If there are any options available such as the insurance provided by company, insurance provided by government (which is voluntary to take) which can be utilized and are halal they need to be communicated to the ummah.

May Allah guide me and all the brothers and sisters in belief on the right path. (By Abdul Samad)