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Monday, April 19, 2021

Qatar readies for ‘historic’ rollout of new health insurance scheme

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Starting tomorrow, Qatari women will be able to go to private hospitals in Doha and get certain services for free.

They will also become the first residents to be enrolled in the country’s new health scheme, the National Health Insurance Company has announced.

The move comes a month after former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani approved a new law mandating health coverage for all residents.

Under the law, private companies will be required to pay the insurance premiums of expat employees and their families. Qataris will continue to be covered by the government, which currently provides subsidized care to any patient.

Officials have said the scheme will be rolled out in five stages, and estimate that health coverage will take effect nationwide by 2015 – a year later than previously forecast.

In a statement, Abdulla Al Qahtani, Minister for Public Health and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Health, said:

“It took time to ensure that we have a robust and effective scheme that answers the specific needs of Qatar but it will be well worth the wait as the scheme rolls out. It is a great pleasure and honour for me to see the launch of this crucial project for our nation.”

Under Stage 1 of the scheme, which takes effect on Wednesday, 90,000 Qatari women over the age of 12 will be covered for appointments and procedures related to maternity, obstetrics and gynecology. The facilities that will provide these services are Hamad Medical Corp.’s Women’s Hospital, Al Emadi Hospital, Al-Ahli Hospital and Doha Clinic Hospital.

The women are automatically enrolled and can present their Qatar ID cards at the hospital’s registration desk on the day of their doctor’s appointment. 

“Qatari nationals do not have to make any payments to the provider for services covered within the scheme as all their premiums will be paid by the government,” the NHIC statement says.

In the past, locals who frequented private hospitals without insurance were required to pay the fees out of their own pockets.

It is unclear how the rollout of the first phase will affect Al Ahli and other private hospitals, which already have long wait times and an overloaded docket of patients, many of whom say HMC is too crowded.

To ensure that private clinics and hospitals don’t raise fees to take advantage of new demand – or to reduce it – the Supreme Council of Health has imposed a moratorium on price hikes until the new health insurance plan is implemented.

“The National Health Insurance Scheme will ensure that the National Health Strategy’s goal of affordable and accessible healthcare is now a reality,” said Dr. Faleh Mohamed Hussain Ali, acting CEO of the NHIC and Assistant Secretary General for Policy Affairs at the SCH.

Meanwhile, the new scheme has proved somewhat controversial in the private sector, with some managers hinting that costs could be transferred to employees. This is despite a clause in the new law that prohibits sponsors from deducting any amount from employees’ salaries to cover insurance premiums.

Read more about the different stages, which are all expected to be rolled out by the end of 2015, here.

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Credit: Photo by Jasleen Kaur

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