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Is Discovery’s rewards programme fairer now?

By Danielle van Wyk

Discovery, arguably one of the biggest medical schemes in South Africa, has a rewards programme which has been deemed by many a great success. It hasn’t come without any snags though and the medical scheme’s recent changes to the way in which members earn rewards has been received with much criticism.

The fact that some devices, which were originially approved by Discovery, were delisted from the programme has also garnered the ire of members who took to social media platforms to bash the medical scheme for this move.

But it appears that a lot of kinks in the Discovery Vitality Rewards ‘armour’ has been hammered out. Here we take note of the improvements Discovery has made to its programme since the hotly contested changes were made and the devices that are now compatible with it.

Device monitoring

“The devices and apps currently supported by Vitality are Apple Watch and the Apple Health App, S-Health and Samsung Gear Watch, Garmin, Polar, Jawbone, Fitbug, Withings, Misfit and Fitbit for step tracking,” added the company.  

The challenge, however, as highlighted in a previous article this year, is that while Fitbit does well to record users’ steps, the facility of recording their heart rate had been discontinued for now.

The company in response to the public outcry at this announcement, conveyed that it was looking into ways around the challenges faced with the heart rate recordings.

“As indicated earlier this year, we’ve been working with Fitbit to receive heart rate data from their devices. We’re pleased to report this update will come into effect by August 2016,” highlighted Discovery.

Recently, consumers who have opted for the Apple Watch device in association with the programme have been up in arms with apparent penalty fees.

“If members meet all weekly fitness goals, Discovery pays the monthly instalment for their Apple Watch. If they don't meet their goals, they are charged a R300 penalty. So when Vitality altered its points allocation system from 1 April (this year) many members who had taken the Apple Watch deal, believing they would earn enough exercise points to pay for it, not only did not qualify but were penalised,” reported Times Live.

According to Discovery, however, they were acting with the framework of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

“We are cognisant of the legal and regulatory framework within which changes to products and benefits can be made and have always taken extensive steps to ensure that we treat our customers fairly. These steps include consultation with external experts on the topic of The Consumer Protection Act to ensure that we protect the rights of our customers who participate in the Vitality programme.

“Changes are always communicated with advance notification to allow our customers sufficient time to make informed decisions and we endeavor to make all material clear and understandable. In advance of the April adjustment, we obtained legal opinion from ENSafrica confirming the reasonableness of the changes and notification requirements of the CPA. The terms and conditions of the benefit guide are also legally sound in terms of CPA,” stated Discovery Health.

They further explained that should members meet their goals their Apple watch would be funded in full. Should they however not be successful they would be debited.

“A monthly amount (penalty) is calculated as a percentage of the retail price at the time of collection, based on an interest-free 24-month basis. This is not necessarily R300,” noted Discovery Health.

The programme further offers members who have grievances the facility of a review process.

“While we always adhere to the regulations set out by the Consumer Protection Act and all other relevant legislation, we have a review process should one of our members ever feel that their individual circumstances warrant an exception to one of our rules or decisions. 

“This review process can be used, for example, if a member cannot attend gym or cannot meet their Vitality Active Rewards goals for medical reasons or due to certain prolonged personal circumstances. A typical resolution in such cases is to pause their goals for a defined period. If a member has such an exception request, they can email us at with their full name, ID number, and issue, with supporting evidence (for example, a medical note),” added Discovery Health.

A decision is then taken by a review committee within 28 working days.  

“We continue to focus on supporting our members to help them navigate the point’s changes and to keep them motivated – bearing in mind the aim of the programme is to nudge people, to change their behaviour, to exercise more,” highlighted Discovery Health.

 Handy tip: If you are looking for medical aid cover, you can apply through Justmoney, click here.

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