Eight new private polyclinics will be now be covered under Qatar’s national health insurance scheme, which has launched stage two of its program today.
Seha (Arabic for health) now covers all Qatari residents, a move that is the latest step in a plan to provide Qatar with a universal healthcare insurance system following new legislation passed last year.
The government has committed to paying for the healthcare of its citizens, while employers will be required to cover insurance premiums for expats, who are expected to be ensured by 2015.
Previously, basic healthcare was free for Qataris only at government hospitals.
However, in July last year, the first phase of the healthcare insurance scheme was launched for Qatari women aged 12 years old and above, to receive free treatment for 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.
As of today, the new clinics that have been brought onboard include the Al Jazeera Medical Center, the Al Ahmadani Medical Center and six branches of the Doha Healthcare Group, which includes popular clinics such as Future Medical Center in Al Waab and Al Esraa Medical Center by Landmark Mall.
Stage two of the scheme will provide all Qatari men and women of all ages with insurance coverage for in-patient and out-patient healthcare, including preventative care, emergency treatment, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, radiology, opthalmology, laboratory testing and prescription medicines.
Dental coverage is expected to be included in the plan from June this year.
The insurance scheme does not cover alternative health treatments such as osteopathy, acupuncture or homeopathy. Examinations for travel and employment are also excluded, as are plastic surgery and other treatments. The full list of exemptions is posted on the Seha website here.
To use the scheme, Qataris should submit their ID cards and addresses.
Although there are no official figures for the number of Qatari nationals, estimates put the population at around 280,000 people. Experts have previously raised concerns that some of the healthcare providers are not being adequately prepared to cope with demand as the scheme is being rolled out.
Earlier this month, Dr. Faleh Mohamed Hussain Ali, acting CEO of the NHIC, told Doha News that some providers had been “overwhelmed” by the number of people turning up during Phase 1, resulting in long queues that often left patients annoyed.
A recent report published by Alpen Capital, a leading investment bank in the Gulf and Asia, found that demand for healthcare services in Qatar is expected to outpace the rest of its Gulf neighbors over the next five years.
The 2014 GCC Healthcare Report forecast a 14.4 percent growth rate in terms of rising costs and demand for services from 2013 to 2018. Outpatient and inpatient markets are expected to account for 79 percent and 21 percent of the market, respectively.
Qatar’s rising population, the billions of dollars the government is planning to spend on new hospitals and clinics and a rise in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity were all cited by the report as key factors contributing to the expansion of Qatar’s healthcare market.
This is in addition to the roll-out of the new health insurance scheme, which will make it more affordable for many people to access health services.