New health insurance schemes in Kuwait

To stop foreigners getting free local healthcare Kuwait is introducing compulsory health insurance for expatriates. The Ministry of Health has approved a scheme to provide medical insurance and healthcare for non nationals who live in Kuwait.

The Ministry of Health has approved a scheme to provide medical insurance and healthcare for non nationals who live in Kuwait.

The move follows a decision by the Kuwaiti government to ban foreigners from access to public healthcare services. The restriction is expected to be implemented in two years’ time. Expats in Kuwait currently pay an annual health insurance fee and enjoy partially subsidised charges for certain procedures, while the country provides free medical services to all citizens.

There are three million expatriates residing in Kuwait. The government divides foreigners in Kuwait into two groups, around two million employees of the private sector and one million expatriates who work in the public sector. The first group of foreigners will be treated in expat-only hospitals.

In 2014, the government established a shareholding company to build three 700-bed hospitals and clinics to provide integrated medical services to foreigners in Kuwait. When the new hospitals are ready in about two years time, foreigners working in the private sector will have to purchase a health insurance policy to have access to medical services at the three hospitals. Their annual health insurance fee is expected to triple. It is uncertain at present whether they will be required to buy health insurance only from one insurer or can choose their health insurer.

The other expatriates that work in the public sector, and domestic servants, will be treated in private medical facilities. The exact mechanism for providing them with health insurance coverage has not yet been clarified, but it is expected that individuals and/or employers will be expected to cover the costs.

The Ministry of Health has a new social insurance contract for retirees, in a move likely to be the first step towards eventual universal health insurance for all Kuwaiti citizens. Afya covers 107,000 retirees registered in the social insurance system. The scheme provides for KWD15, 500 annual health insurance for a male retiree, and KWD17, 000 for a woman. The coverage includes KWD1500 for dental services for both sexes. The scheme does not cover medical treatment abroad. The prices of healthcare services provided by private hospitals or healthcare facilities will be controlled. Gulf Insurance Group is providing the insurance cover as it offered the lowest bid. This gives Gulf an edge if the scheme is expanded to all citizens as it could either be a one insurer or multi insurer deal, with separate rules for expatriates.