Advancing plans to roll out universal health coverage in Qatar, the National Health Insurance Company (NHIC) has announced that phase two of its plan will take effect on April 30.
That means all Qataris will be entitled to free care for their basic health needs at most of the country’s major hospitals by the end of the month, as part of the renamed Seha (health) scheme.
Phase 1 of the plan was introduced last July, when Qatari women 12 years old and above received free services in gynecology, obstetrics, maternity and other women-related health issues from eight service providers.
They include HMC Women’s Hospital, Al Emadi Hospital, Al Ahli Hospital, Doha Clinic, Al Wakra Hospital, Al Khor Hospital, the Cuban Hospital and Al Hayat Hospital.
Officials have previously said the scheme would be rolled out in five stages, with expats being covered by 2015. Under the new healthcare law passed last year, the government would pay for the healthcare needs of its citizens, while employers would be required to cover insurance premiums for foreigners.
Struggling to keep up
Before Seha, Qataris without insurance were given certain types of free care only at government hospitals, but can now avail themselves of services at many private institutions.
Of the 90,000 Qatari women who were granted health coverage last summer, some 30,000 used the new insurance by January 2014, according to the latest figures available. It is not clear how many Qataris would be insured under Phase 2, though rough estimates put the national population at around 278,000 people.
The influx of thousands of new patients is expected to prove difficult for many providers, according to Dr. Faleh Mohamed Hussain Ali, acting CEO of the NHIC, who addressed reporters at a press conference yesterday.
In response to a question from Doha News about the biggest challenge facing Seha, he cited the unpreparedness of certain service providers that were “overwhelmed” by the number of people turning up during Phase 1, resulting in long queues that often left patients annoyed.
“We told them from the beginning that our base of customers is going to be the entire nation. So I think they didn’t actually do their homework properly and they were not ready to actually realize how much pressure is going to be there in the system.”
I provide, as part of the scheme, access. And I cannot control what providers can do in their hands as much as I wish to. It’s for them, its a business sense. Its business intelligence how the people work. So that was probably the major challenge.”
Despite this obstacle, 84 percent of female respondents to a recent survey by the Ministry of Development and Planning Statistics (MDPS) on behalf of the NHIC stated that the scheme had met or exceeded their expectations.
Faleh also fielded a question about a moratorium on price hikes at private clinics and hospitals, which the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) instituted last year so that companies didn’t take advantage of the new demand.
Speaking to Doha News, he said that after the second phase was introduced, the SCH may consider lifting the price freeze “within the next month or so.”
But providers who have signed up with the new health scheme must adhere to the fee structure set up by the NHIC, the Peninsula reports him as saying.
Qataris will be automatically enrolled in Seha, and only need to present their Qatari ID to avail themselves of health insurance.
Coverage extends to inpatient and outpatient services including preventive care, emergency treatment,physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, long-term care, radiology, ophthalmology, laboratory testing and prescription medicines.
Exceptions to coverage include cosmetic surgery and a list of other medical services, which are listed on Seha’s website here.
More providers may be added to the Seha network in the coming months, officials said.
Dates for the final phases of the NHIC’s plan, to insure white-collar expats, and then blue-collar ones, have not yet been set. However, any resident with questions can pose them to the NHIC on Twitter or Facebook.
In my opinion is the first responsiblity of any government to provide access to health care for its citizens, so congratulations to Qatar for a step in the right direction. Qatar is a rich country so can afford this, compare this to the US with its disgraceful level of coverage for its citizens despite being the largest spender on healthcare of any country.
I have learned from discussions on Reddit that USA has some of the worst healthcare coverage if not worst in the world. Too expensive. And its neighbour Canada has some of the best healthcare coverage.
If you mean by ‘best’ that you can wait months or over a year for operations and that the costs can account for a huge percentage of a province’s budget, and that it is frowned upon to get a MRI done to check yourself out because if anything is found it might advance your position on the wait list, or that there is little to no incentive to stay healthy and that people who maintain a lifestyle of over eating, smoking and using drugs allows them to use the system time and time again without having to take on the personal responsibility to make some healthier choices in their lives, then yes, it has one of the ‘best’ healthcare systems in the world 😛
That “wait months or over a year for operations” is one of the many myths spread by conservatives in the U.S. for whatever twisted reasons they have that makes them against universal health care. They support endless wars that costs trillions of tax payers dollars but are against universal health care?
Have you seen this story about the Canadian surgeon testifying before congress?
Quite amazing isn’t it? However when you think about it, not really. Forcing everyone to buy private medical insurance generates great profit from those companies twice. Once from individuals or companies paying the premiums and then again from the taxpayers as the government funds medical schemes. It’s almost a crime.
America actually has great healthcare – if you are rich and can afford to go to the best clinics.
But if you are an average Joe on an average wage it’s pretty awful. Thankfully most Americans never travel so they don’t yet know how bad the system is compared to the rest of the world.
In many cases the best of medical care is available in the United States. The problem is that it is usually at a very high price and available to very few. We should keep in mind though that although the system may not be very cost effective many (if not most?) people in the United States get are able to access health services that many people in the poorest countries in the world could only dream of. For a realistic comparison of the western type healthcare systems and the effectiveness of each check out the Commonwealth Fund surveys. The latest one is just out – http://www.commonwealthfund.org/
This system was implemented in my country more than 50 years ago !
My only issue with this law is that those of us that pay money at a private hospital so that we don’t have long wait times, now have to wait weeks or months just to get an appointment but still paying premium price.
I started going to al ahli because I found hmc medical care freighting and sub par.plus I had to wait weeks just to get an appointment. To get an appointment with the Gyno I only had to wait maybe a week or two to see my doctor. After this law came into effect, they don’t even give you an appointment date anymore, they call you when or if there is an opening.
Go for them taking care of their citizens. But private hospitals shouldn’t be included in this. Part of the issue is they need to build more government hospitals.
Health care should be a universal human right.
As some of you are discussing the high cost of medical care in the U.S., here is an interesting video on the topic.