By Mai Akkad
Hot on the heels of the new health insurance law that the Emir approved last week, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has given more details about how it will work, and how soon it will be implemented.
The new law ensures coverage for all residents by making it mandatory for private companies 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.
Dr. Faleh Mohamed Hussein Ali, assistant secretary general for policy affairs at the SCH, told journalists today:
“The National Health Insurance Scheme is not designed to cut costs or benefits. On the contrary, its background is the goal to ensure that everyone living in Qatar – both nationals and non-nationals – have the basic minimum healthcare services available to them.”
He added that the new law would make services and pricing among healthcare practitioners in Qatar more competitive as all residents will be able to choose to go to private or public hospitals.
Though the SCH previously announced that the legislation would be fully implemented by 2014, it has now pushed back its deadline to 2015.
The first stage of the five-stage scheme begins next month. It will cover all Qatari women (some 90,000 people) from age 12 upwards for 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 second and third stage of the scheme will cover all Qatari nationals for all services by 2014. Hamad Hospital and other expanded private healthcare facilities will provide the services.
In the fourth stage, white-collar non-nationals and visitors will be covered for all services by 2015.
The final stage, which is to also be implemented by 2015, will cover the blue-collar non-nationals for all services. They will have access to HMC, expanded private providers as well as three new single male labourers’ hospitals that are yet to be built.
How to enroll
Enrolling in the NHIS differs between expats and locals. Qataris are automatically enrolled. To receive care, they show their Qatar ID to a provider.
Meanwhile, non-national residents will be registered for the scheme when they either go to renew their residence permits or when their employers or sponsors pay the necessary premium. According to Faleh, employers who skip these payments will violate the law and will not be able to obtain RPs for their employees.
Sponsors have also been prohibited from deducting any amount from employees’ salaries to cover the premiums, though business people have said companies will find a way to pass the extra expense to either the employees or their customers.
Visitors will be enrolled at the time of the issuance of their visa by payment of a fee.
There is no monetary limit to the coverage within the insurance scheme for Qataris and expats in the country. However, not all procedures will be covered, ie cosmetic surgery and teeth whitening.
Visitors’ insurance will cover a much more limited scope of services due to the nature of their temporary stay in the country.
Credit: Photo by Alex Stoimos