Compulsory health insurance for expats in Kuwait

Kuwait has a draft law on mandatory health insurance scheme for expatriates and could require visitors to have health insurance. Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait’s population, including 1.1 million Arab expatriates and 1.5 million Asian expatriates. The high expat numbers can distort the actual medical tourism inbound and outbound numbers for Kuwait.

The National Assembly’s legal and legislative committee has approved a draft law that would establish a mandatory health insurance scheme for expatriates living and working in Kuwait.

The move takes the proposed and long delayed health insurance scheme closer to implementation.

The committee also approved a proposal to impose charges on medical services for expatriates opting to seek treatment at public hospitals. Expatriates are required to pay only KWD50 (US$164) annually on renewal of their residence permits and also pay partial fees for most health services at public hospitals.

Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait’s population, including 1.1 million Arab expatriates and 1.5 million Asian expatriates. Based on official information from the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI) in 2018 the number of expats is 3.3 million and Kuwaitis is 1.4 million.

Due to these high numbers of resident expatriates, medical tourism inbound and outbound numbers are often confused when reports wrongly use the term “international patient” as synonymous with “medical tourists”.

The government and the Assembly have also approved a law to establish hospitals for the treatment of expatriates only.

Kuwait has established a shareholding company (the Health Assurance Hospitals Company Dhaman) through the public-private-partnership system, to service expatriate’s health needs. Dhaman’s health strategy involves building three hospitals and a series of basic healthcare clinics according to expats’ demographic distribution throughout Kuwait. Dhaman is building hospitals in Ahmadi and Jahra, and the two hospitals are expected to be ready in 2020, only serving expatriates. Dhaman hospitals will only provide secondary healthcare, while tertiary healthcare will remain the preserve of MoH hospitals.

Kuwait will witness a shift in the quality of health services once the responsibility of expats’ mandatory health insurance is transferred from the Ministry of Health (MoH) to the Health Assurance Hospitals Company (Dhaman) as planned in the state’s development plan. The plan is to help reduce pressure on MoH facilities and government spending on health services. Dhaman will in future operate the health insurance that expatriates have to buy.

Another new measure being debated will, if passed, impose a requirement for obligatory health insurance on all foreigners who visit the country. This stipulates that before issuing a visit visa to a foreigner, the sponsor must attach a health insurance policy to the application.