A draft law to mandate universal health insurance coverage for residents of Qatar has gained the Emir’s approval, QNA reports.
Law No. 7 of 2013, which requires private companies to pay the insurance premiums of its expat employees and their families, was adopted by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani on Monday.
The news comes a week after the Supreme Council of Health banned private clinics and hospitals from raising their fees pending the rollout of the new scheme, called Social Health Insurance (SHI).
According to a senior SCH official, one goal of the new plan is to standardize the healthcare services and fees across Qatar.
Implementing SHI will also entail a total overhaul of the country’s current healthcare system, in that it will shift the onus of coverage from the government to the private sector.
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.
Because SHI is not expected to be fully implemented until 2016, it is unclear how many of the new law’s provisions will be applied immediately.
For example, the Peninsula reports that under the new law, all visitors to the country must have medical insurance before visas are issued to them. The draft suggest tourists will have the option of buying this insurance before officially crossing into Qatar.
The penalty for violating the law is up to one year in jail and a fine of QR100,000. The Minister of Public Health can also close a healthcare facility for a month or cancel its license for not following the new regulations.
According to the Official Gazette, other provisions include that:
- Employers’ premiums must cover the following basic treatments: vaccinations, treatment of ailments, rehabilitation and regular medical check-ups;
- Employers are prohibited from making any deductions from the salaries of their workers for the premiums;
- The government will not issue or renew residences permit of expats or their dependents until insurance is obtained; and
- Domestic workers are to be provided with medical insurance by their sponsors, despite a recommendation from the Advisory Council that household help be added to the “family members” category, so that Qataris would not have to pay for them.
A new non-profit company is being set up to monitor the system, which has been hailed for shoring up healthcare for vulnerable segments of the community, including construction workers.
But many in the private sector continue to rue the law and what it would cost them. According to Al Sharq, businessmen estimate that the premiums from the mandatory health insurance scheme will total some $549.3 million (QR2 billion) by 2016.
Read the full law as posted in Al Raya here.
Credit: Photo by 401(k) 2013