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Mandatory health insurance for foreigners in Qatar

Employer Action Code: Monitor

The new law will require all foreign nationals to have private health insurance in order to receive basic medical services. The aim of the draft law is to provide high-quality and sustainable health care for all Qatari nationals and foreign residents. Currently, in order to receive public health care services on a cost-effective basis, foreigners have to purchase a Hamad health card. The new law will help to ensure that all residents have access to quality healthcare, regardless of their nationality or employment status.

The draft law is currently being reviewed by the cabinet, and is expected to come into force later this year. Foreign nationals who are currently residing in Qatar on a long-term basis will be required to purchase private health insurance within six months of the law coming into force. Those who fail to do so will be liable to a fine of QR1,000 (US$275).

The new law is likely to have a significant impact on the cost of living for foreign nationals living in Qatar. Private health insurance is typically more expensive than public health care, and the cost of premiums is likely to rise in the wake of the new law. However, the draft law includes a number of measures that are designed to mitigate the impact on foreign nationals, including subsidies for low-income earners and a grace period of six months for those who are unable to purchase insurance immediately.

The introduction of the new law is part of Qatar’s wider efforts to reform its health care system. In recent years, the government has made significant investments in the health sector, including the opening of a new hospital every year since 2014. These reforms are designed to ensure that Qatar can provide high-quality health care for all of its residents, regardless of nationality or income.

Key details

  1. Require all health care providers to be licensed and regulated by the state;
  2. Establish minimum standards for health care facilities, including requirements for staffing, equipment, and infection control;
  3. Require all health care providers to adhere to a code of ethics;
  4. Prohibit discrimination in the provision of health care services;
  5. Establish an insurance mandate for foreign nationals visiting or residing in Qatar; and
  6. Require all health care providers to participate in a quality assurance program.

The draft law would also establish a complaints procedure for patients who believe they have been treated unfairly or received inadequate care.

Total health care spending in Qatar is about US$1,716 per capita. The government accounts for three-quarters of all spending with the remainder composed of voluntary health insurance (15%) and out-of-pocket spending (10%). Qatar’s health care system is one of the most advanced in the region, providing high-quality medical care to all residents. The country has a large number of hospitals and clinics, many of which are staffed by international medical professionals. Qatar also offers a wide range of health care services, from primary care to specialist services. In recent years, the government has made significant investments in the health care sector, including the development of new hospitals and the expansion of existing ones. As a result, Qatar’s health care system is now one of the best in the region.

Employer implications

The draft law on organizing health care services, public and private, was sent to the Shura Council for its consideration in February 2021. Qatar enacted legislation in 2013 that would have eventually required that the entire population be insured by a national health insurance company (referred to as Seha) by 2016; however, rollout of the system was suspended in late 2015 followed by the suspension and dismantling of Seha’s operations. The proposed mandate is more narrowly aimed and likely to be approved. Employers should monitor the development of the draft law and any related measures to reestablish a national health insurance system in Qatar.

The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) is responsible for regulating private health insurance in Qatar. In order to obtain a health insurance license from the HIA, insurers must satisfy a number of requirements, including having their headquarters located in Qatar, maintaining capital and reserves of at least QAR 100 million (US$ 27.5 million), and appointing an agent registered with the HIA.

In addition, insurers must comply with various prudential regulations, including solvency requirements, risk management standards, and claims handling procedures. Insurers are also required to provide the HIA with regular financial reports and other information as requested.

The HIA may impose administrative sanctions on insurers for violations of insurance laws and regulations, including fines of up to QAR 500,000 (US$ 137,500).

The draft law on organizing health care services, public and private, was sent to the Shura Council for its consideration in February 2021. Qatar enacted legislation in 2013 that would have eventually required that the entire population be insured by a national health insurance company (referred to as Seha) by 2016; however, rollout of the system was suspended in late 2015 followed by the suspension and dismantling of Seha’s operations. The proposed mandate is more narrowly aimed and likely to be approved. Employers should monitor the development of the draft law and any related measures to reestablish a national health insurance system in Qatar.

The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) is responsible for regulating private health insurance in Qatar. In order to obtain a health insurance license from the HIA, insurers must satisfy a number of requirements, including having their headquarters located in Qatar, maintaining capital and reserves of at least QAR 100 million (US$ 27.5 million), and appointing an agent registered with the HIA.

In addition, insurers must comply with various prudential regulations, including solvency requirements, risk management standards, and claims handling procedures. Insurers are also required to provide the HIA with regular financial reports and other information as requested.

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