General Insurance Article - Mandatory health insurance for foreigners in Qatar

The draft law would require foreign nationals to have private health insurance to receive basic medical services in Qatar.

 By Steve Clements, Senior Director Global Services and Solutions CEEMEA at willis Towers Watson

 Employer Action Code: Monitor
 The cabinet has approved a draft law on health care services, which includes an obligation for all foreign nationals to have private health insurance in order to receive basic medical services. The aim of the draft law is to provide high-quality and sustainable health care for all Qatari nationals and foreign residents. (Most of the population [around 90%] are foreigners who account for about 95% of all employees in the private sector.) Currently, in order to receive public health care services on a cost-effective basis, foreigners have to purchase a Hamad health card.

 Key details
 While public health care services and providers are well funded and state of the art in many cases, the underlying policies and standards for the administration of patient services in public and private facilities is fairly lightly regulated. The draft law would establish a uniform framework for public and private health care services, including an insurance mandate for foreign nationals visiting or residing in Qatar. In broad terms, the draft law would:

 Establish a policy framework around procedures and administration of services for the public and private sectors
 Provide for various patient rights and duties to be taken into account in receiving services
 Establish the right of citizens to receive services at government facilities free of charge
 Require that all foreign residents and visitors have private health insurance in order to receive care

 According to the latest data from the World Health Organization, total health care spending in Qatar is about US$1,716 per capita, comparable to other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries such as the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia (where per capita public spending is $1,817 and $1,485, respectively). The government accounts for three-quarters of all spending with the remainder composed of voluntary health insurance (15%) and out-of-pocket spending (10%).

 Employer implications
 The draft law on organizing health care services, public and private, was sent to the Shura Council for its consideration in February 2021. Qatar enacted legislation in 2013 that would have eventually required that the entire population be insured by a national health insurance company (referred to as Seha) by 2016; however, rollout of the system was suspended in late 2015 followed by the suspension and dismantling of Seha’s operations. The proposed mandate is more narrowly aimed and likely to be approved.

 Employers should monitor the development of the draft law and any related measures to regulate private health insurance policies.

 Provision of health care benefits is very common among companies in Qatar, given the foreign nature of the workforce and the need for non-Qataris to purchase health care access, but enactment of the proposed law may establish a more robust market for health insurance.

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