Kuwait inches closer to ex­pat only hos­pi­tals

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ah­mad Jabr

Kuwait’s plan to achieve com­plete na­tion­al­ity-based seg­re­ga­tion at its med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties is on track, with the first steps set to take place early next year when clin­ics run by a med­i­cal in­surance com­pany will be­gin of­fer­ing ser­vices ex­clu­sively for ex­pa­tri­ates.

In ad­di­tion to the 15 clin­ics that will be spread across Kuwait, the Health In­surance Hos­pi­tals Com­pany, a pub­lic share­hold­ing firm for health in­surance es­tab­lished in ac­cor­dance with a de­ci­sion by the Cab­i­net, will pro­vide med­i­cal care for ex­pa­tri­ates through three hos­pi­tals to be of­fi­cially opened by late 2019, CEO Dr Ah­mad Al-Saleh said dur­ing a con­fer­ence spon­sored by the health min­istry.

When those hos­pi­tals be­come oper­a­tional, the plan is to pro­hibit ex­pats from re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion at pub­lic hos­pi­tals and clin­ics, making ac­cess to those fa­cil­i­ties - where ser­vices are mostly of­fered free of charge - ex­clu­sive to Kuwaiti cit­i­zens. This step also comes at an ad­di­tional cost for for­eign­ers. Once the new com­pany takes over the du­ties of of­fer­ing health ser­vices to ex­pats from the health min­istry, ex­pats’ an­nual health in­surance fees will in­crease to KD 130, Saleh con­firmed, with­out giv­ing an ex­act date for its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

At present, ex­pa­tri­ates must pay KD 50 per year for health in­surance be­fore they can re­new their res­i­den­cies. This al­lows them ba­sic ser­vices in the pub­lic health­care sys­tem in­clud­ing poly­clin­ics and govern­ment hos­pi­tals. Ex­pa­tri­ates are also re­quired to pay ad­di­tional fees for a va­ri­ety of med­i­cal pro­ce­dures, es­pe­cially surg­eries, hospi­tal stays and ra­di­ol­ogy ex­am­i­na­tions. Ex­pa­tri­ates also pay KD 1 for each visit to pub­lic clin­ics and KD 2 to ca­su­alty sec­tions at hos­pi­tals.

Un­der the min­istry of health’s law No. 1/1999 per­tain­ing with health in­surance for for­eign­ers, ob­tain­ing med­i­cal in­surance is oblig­a­tory in or­der to is­sue or re­new a res­i­dent’s visa. There­fore, the KD 130 in­surance fee will be­come manda­tory ac­cord­ing to the same law. There has been de­bate in the past that the govern­ment should give ex­pats the choice of buy­ing health in­surance plans from pri­vate in­surance com­pa­nies.

The Health In­surance Hos­pi­tals Com­pany was es­tab­lished ac­cord­ing to the pub­lic-pri­vate-part­ner­ship (PPP) model with a KD 230 mil­lion cap­i­tal, and the govern­ment owns 24 per­cent of its shares, while 26 per­cent is owned by strate­gic in­vestor Arabi Hold­ing Group. The re­main­ing 50 per­cent will be of­fered in an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing at a later date.

Fur­ther­more, most ex­pats are likely not go­ing to find the op­tion of buy­ing in­surance poli­cies from pri­vate com­pa­nies fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble as well. The av­er­age monthly salary for ex­pat work­ers in the pri­vate sec­tor is KD 255 ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics, while the min­i­mum av­er­age cost for pri­vate health in­surance in Kuwait reaches KD 140 a year, and goes up the older the buyer is.

The idea to es­tab­lish ex­pat-ex­clu­sive hos­pi­tals came af­ter the govern­ment de­cided it was the best so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of its heav­ily over­crowded pub­lic med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties. The cur­rent health sec­tor’s ca­pac­ity is 7,000 beds in pub­lic hos­pi­tals and 1,000 in pri­vate hos­pi­tals, with an av­er­age of three beds for ev­ery 10,000 in Kuwait, Dr Mo­ham­mad Al-Khashti, the min­istry of health’s as­sis­tant un­der­sec­re­tary for pri­vate med­i­cal ser­vices, said dur­ing the launch of the 2nd Kuwait Con­fer­ence for In­surance and In­vest­ment in the Health Sec­tor on Tues­day. The min­istry hopes to in­crease the ca­pac­ity to 15,000 by 2020, he added. The min­istry is also ex­pected later this year to open the Jaber Hospi­tal a nearly 1,200-bed pub­lic hospi­tal billed as the largest hospi­tal in the Mid­dle East - which will be ex­clu­sively for Kuwaitis.

Mean­while, the three planned hos­pi­tals for ex­pa­tri­ates will have a bed ca­pac­ity of 700 each, and will be built in Ah­madi, Jahra and Far­waniya gov­er­norates. They will serve only around two mil­lion ex­pa­tri­ates work­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor, while non-Kuwaiti pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees and do­mes­tic helpers (nearly one mil­lion) are ei­ther go­ing to con­tinue to be treated at pub­lic hos­pi­tals or through an al­ter­na­tive health plan, likely at pri­vate med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties via a mech­a­nism to be de­cided later.

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