Tuesday, 06 September 2016 and iPMI Magazine reports that the Health Minister of Kuwait announced that the fatwa and legislative department had given the green light to setting up a separate healthcare system for expatriates under a new medical insurance scheme. The contract is meant to help ease the burden on the current health system and is in line with the government’s program of action and state development plan to develop a national healthcare strategy.
January 2017 and all has changed, overnight, with no warning - leaving an estimated 3.1 million expats in limbo. The Government has cancelled the deal with the insurer KHAC- the only insurer offering cover under their compulsory health insurance scheme. Interestingly, KHAC was set up by the Government in 2014 to specifically offer healthcare services to expatriates with assistance from the private sector.
Although the story is still unfolding with many unknown facts, the result of this unplanned last minute announcement is that the Interior Ministry has instructed all directors of residency affairs to issue temporary residencies of 1 month for those expatriates applying to renew their residencies.
Expats with temporary residencies may not leave the country and if they do, on return they would have to reapply for a new visa.
The insurance contract was cancelled so the Ministry may sign a new deal with a new provider - yet no details have been made public about when and how this will work.
IPMI industry analyst Ian Youngmann told iPMI Magazine, "The Ministry of Health told KHAC that it would not renew the contract in July 2017 -without giving reasons or saying what replacement was happening. The Ministry of Health has also announced its intention to form a technical, financial and legal committee to study and update the costs of the health services offered to expatriates in government hospitals, affirming its keenness to ensure expatriates will enjoy the services at costs that suit the variation of each service. What is confusing is that KHAC is owned by the government and KHAC was supposed to provide health insurance and run the three planned new private clinics by 2019 that only expatriates can use.
KHAC, which was set up by the government in 2014 in partnership with the private sector, aims to provide health care services to expatriates separate from those provided by the government to Kuwaitis. The two hospitals are expected to be completed within 36 months and will open by the end of 2019. Kuwaiti investment firm Arabi Group Holding Co has a 26% stake in KHAC.
What is happening between the health ministry and KHAC is still a mystery."
Escape From Kuwait?
For all residency applications, health insurance is required by law, so until this matter is resolved no new residencies or renewals of residencies will be processed.
The news hit the press as an expat crisis in Kuwait erupted, over media reports that expats will be deported in order to try and balance the local/expat numbers PLUS proposed new health charges for expats and visitors that will see an increase by almost 500% by mid-February.
“The government has not decided to deport expatriates from the country and it does not intend to do so”, says the State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.1
Asked whether the Government has a strategy to reduce the number of expatriates by pressuring them through increased charges and taxes, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah responded by asking, “Did you hear from any government official that the government wants to expel thousands of expatriates from Kuwait?.”2
MP Abdul Karim Al Kandari said, “We are not against expatriates and we consider them as our dear brothers.”
“We used their assistance to build our nation, but we must have a clear system about their numbers. We do not want to trigger hate speeches, but rather an organisation of the process regarding the expatriates. What we want is just measures to organise presence of expatriates because their number is increasing amid an obvious chaos and lack of control.”3
According to new figures released Kuwait is home to 4.4 million people. Expats make up a massive 70%.
What happens next is any ones guess and although this isn't the 1st time laws have changed overnight, we certainly wouldn't like to be an expatriate in Kuwait.
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1:Thomson Reuters Zawya
2:Thomson Reuters Zawya