Health­care in Kuwait

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Muna Al-Fuzai muna@kuwait­

For sev­eral years, ex­pats in Kuwait have been pay­ing about KD 50 to health in­sur­ance com­pa­nies for ev­ery year of their res­i­den­cies. How­ever, ex­pa­tri­ates can­not re­new their res­i­den­cies un­less they pay the health in­sur­ance fees, so they won­der where all this money goes and what do they get in re­turn? They also pay for health­care ser­vices at hos­pi­tals, which raises a big ques­tion among ex­pa­tri­ates about the ben­e­fit of pay­ing in ad­vance.

Now the health min­istry de­cided to in­crease health ser­vice fees for ex­pa­tri­ates from Oc­to­ber 1, es­pe­cially with the near-com­ple­tion of the health in­sur­ance hos­pi­tal project, which will launch in 2018. The an­nual health guar­an­tee paid by the ex­pa­tri­ates will re­main un­changed un­til 2020. Min­is­ter of Health Dr Ja­mal Al-Harbi ap­proved the im­ple­men­ta­tion of new fees from Oc­to­ber, but the min­istry did not add new charges for health in­sur­ance for ex­pa­tri­ates, which is be­tween KD 30 and KD 50. The new list will in­clude some ex­emp­tions.

Health in­sur­ance cen­ters and hos­pi­tals are ex­pected to serve more than 1.8 mil­lion ex­pa­tri­ates work­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor, which will re­duce the pres­sure on the fa­cil­i­ties of the min­istry and con­trib­ute to im­prov­ing the level of med­i­cal ser­vices. The prob­lem here is not with the de­sire of the health min­istry to co­op­er­ate with health in­sur­ance com­pa­nies or oth­ers, but with those who are un­der fixed salaries and fam­i­lies who are af­fected even with­out any change in the old fees, aside from the high cost of liv­ing and school fees.

Such reg­u­la­tions will only lead to some fam­i­lies quit­ting Kuwait, leav­ing the fathers be­hind alone. The pres­ence of fam­i­lies in the coun­try stim­u­lates the lo­cal econ­omy, be­cause it leads the ex­pa­tri­ate to spend his salary in the coun­try. He will now have to spend more to pro­vide health ser­vices for his wife and chil­dren but with no change to his salary. It would have been bet­ter to find out the opin­ion of ex­pats from var­i­ous cat­e­gories be­fore is­su­ing de­ci­sions that make them feel con­fused and wor­ried. Ex­pa­tri­ates are forced to pay ex­tra fees for x-rays, surgery and medicine, so what is the use of in­sur­ance which they paid for?

There are fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences in the is­sue of health in­sur­ance for ex­pa­tri­ates - for ex­am­ple, those who re­ceive a salary of more than KD 3,000 are not the same as those who re­ceive KD 200 per month. The for­mer will not be harmed if he pays any in­crease in health in­sur­ance, but the lat­ter will surely be af­fected badly.

In 2015, a pro­posal was made by a com­mit­tee of the Supreme Plan­ning Coun­cil, which I think could work out if the Min­istry of Health (MoH) had a strat­egy sim­i­lar to the rest of the GCC on the med­i­cal treat­ment of ex­pats. The pro­posal sug­gested can­cel­ing health in­sur­ance for ex­pa­tri­ates and treat­ing them in pri­vate hos­pi­tals through in­sur­ance com­pa­nies. This sys­tem is highly ef­fec­tive in the UAE.

But the main ob­sta­cle in Kuwait was that there are no pri­vate hos­pi­tals that are able to ac­com­mo­date the large num­ber of ex­pats in Kuwait - around 2.7 mil­lion. So, they adopted the so­lu­tion of seg­re­gat­ing clin­ics and dis­tribut­ing pa­tients in the morn­ing and evening pe­ri­ods.

The prob­lem in the health sec­tor is that even the idea of com­plet­ing a hos­pi­tal takes many years, fol­lowed by the is­sues of med­i­cal equip­ment and em­ploy­ment. There­fore, talk about any de­vel­op­ment and mod­i­fi­ca­tion should not be based on who pays the fees and who does not. Quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive stud­ies should be ap­plied be­fore is­su­ing any new law or reg­u­la­tion.

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