Qatar insurance law to reduce medical travel

A new mandatory health insurance law in Qatar will reduce outbound medical tourism from May 2022. The new compulsory health insurance scheme will apply to all expatriates and visitors, including medical tourists to the country. 

The aim of Qatar’s new health insurance system is to reduce waiting times in the government health facilities in the country and provide appointments for medical consultations within a time that meets the health needs of citizens at the highest level of quality

Law number 22 of the 2021 regulating the health services in Qatar is planned to enter into force in May 2022:

  • Expatriates and visitors must have health insurance to acquire basic healthcare services.
  • Basic health Insurance cover is required for the issuance of entry permits, residence permits and expatriates employment.
  • Basic health Insurance cover is required for the renewal of both entry and residence permits.
  • Sponsors and employers must cover non-Qatari employees and their families with mandatory health insurance through contracts with registered insurance companies.
  • Employers and sponsors (the latter for domestic workers) must pay the insurance fees of the employees and their families, provide them with the health insurance card and demonstrate that their workers are covered by the mandatory health insurance.
  • Visitors shall either buy local health insurance or prove that they have international health insurance valid in Qatar.

Although not all the rules have yet been published the situation so far is understood to be:

  • Only health insurers, health intermediaries and healthcare providers registered in Qatar can offer the compulsory cover.
  • The international health exclusion appears to apply only to visitors, not expats or temporary workers.
  • Employers who do not cover their workers will be fined.
  • Employers can provide insurance beyond the basic cover.
  • There is no provision for insurance paid healthcare outside of Qatar.

Qatar has a public health service that provides free or highly subsidised healthcare and is of an excellent standard.  All citizens have the right to free and equal access to health services at government facilities financed from public funds.  The rules apply to domestic workers.

Qatar has a population of 2.94 million, with 88% of the population being non-Qataris. Expat numbers include 25% Indian, 12% Bangladeshi, 10% Filipino, 9% Egyptian, and 6% Sri Lankan.

Despite May being the start date, the full implementing regulations have not been published and may not be published before the May start date assuming that it is not again delayed.

The Ministry of Public Health will require all participants in the insurance market chain to be authorised to offer health insurance related services in the scheme.

The Qatari government recognises that the participation of foreign investors in the economy is an integral part of economic diversification as in its National Vision 2030. The Foreign Investment Law (Law No. 1 of 2019 provides for the establishment for 100% foreign owned companies.

Expats will have healthcare in new health centres so freeing up public hospitals for citizens. This will reduce the need, at least for state paid healthcare, for Qataris to go abroad.

More private hospitals are being built for locals which will also reduce the need to go abroad.