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Health insurance law inches forward to dismay of Qatar’s private sector



Qatar moved one step closer to completely overhauling its healthcare system yesterday when the Advisory (Shura) Council approved a draft health insurance law that mandates universal coverage for all residents.

The new scheme will shift the onus of coverage from the government to the private companies who employ Qatar’s majority expat population.

Qataris will continue to be covered by the government, which spent nearly $2,000 per person on healthcare in 2011 for a total of $3.2 billion, making it the region’s highest per capita spender on the sector.

‘Dreadful’ law

According to the Peninsula, many in the private sector find the draft law “dreadful,” and would inevitably pass on their increasing costs to employees in the way of smaller pay packages:

“This will mostly affect middle-income workers of the private sector,” businessman Ahmed Al Khalaf told the newspaper, adding that housing allowances would be the first thing to fall. 

And because the draft also stipulates that employers must cover family members of expat employees, companies may also begin discouraging employees to sponsor their relatives and bring them to Qatar, he added.

This could possibly be done by increasing the minimum monthly salary requirement of QR10,000 to sponsor one’s family.

Another stipulation of the draft law is that insurance premiums for domestic workers are to be covered by their sponsors. However, the Advisory Council has recommended that household help be added to the “family members” category, so that Qataris would not have to pay for them. (Expats would have to ask their employers to cover the premiums.)

Delays likely

When the Supreme Council of Health first announced plans for a new health insurance scheme last year, it forecast that the plan would take effect by the end of 2014.

But that looks unlikely, as the draft law could still undergo revisions before it meets the approval of the Emir or the Deputy Emir.

UPDATE: May 8, 2013 

According to the Gulf Times, the new deadline to roll out this health insurance plan is 2016:

There will be four stages of implementation of the Health Insurance Law. The first envisages immediate implementation of the law for Qatari women, the second for all Qatari nationals, the third for resident employees and their families and the fourth for workers. All these stages will be fully implemented by 2016.

Meanwhile, industry experts have said that Qatar will also have to overcome a few practical challenges before making this new plan a reality. They include: addressing the lack of regulatory oversight of private insurance providers, whose services will be in high demand under the new scheme; establishing a set of uniform practices in terms of patient billing, regulation and pricing plans; and sorting out inconsistent quality of care.


Credit: Photo by 401(k) 2013

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