The Social Health Insurance (SHI) scheme, which will be rolled out in phases to cover all residents in Qatar as well as visitors, will be fully implemented in the country by the end of 2014, it was announced yesterday. The draft law for the scheme has been sent to the council members for consideration. At its first stage and beginning from November 2012 the scheme will cover some 75,000 Qatari women aged from 15 years, who will start to enjoy free medical care in obstetrics and gynaecology. More services will be available to the group under the scheme much later.

Other stages of the implementation of the scheme will be as follows:

  • Second stage – July 2013 – coverage for all nationals for all medical services in primary healthcare and the private sector.
  • Third stage – October 2013 – all nationals enjoying services from all providers in the country.
  • Fourth stage  – May 2014 – all nationals for all services in the private sector and some 50% of out-patient services.

It is expected that all residents including expatriates will be included in the SHI with the majority enjoying a basic package of Benefits of healthcare services at both primary and secondary levels during its fifth stage, by the end of 2014. According to the draft law the government shall be liable to pay the health insurance premiums for Qataris while employers are liable for their expatriate workers. The scheme which will be made mandatory for all will be linked to the issuance of residence permit for expatriates including those on family and visiting visas.

The draft law states that employers and sponsors shall not be issued with residence permits for employees or sponsored persons unless they have subscribed to the SHI and the employer or sponsor may not collect any part of the health insurance premiums required to be paid by him from the employee/sponsored persons.

The Supreme Council of Health’s Assistant Secretary General for policy affairs Dr Faleh Mohamed Hussain Ali explained that the health insurance premium payment would be linked to the issuance of visas in order to ensure that everyone staying in the country was included in the programme. However he was unclear whether those expatriates who are not on the sponsorship of their company would enjoy similar Benefits.

He said “I cannot presently give a clear picture of the SHI coverage for that category of workers under the family or husband’s sponsorship but I can assure you that everyone resident in Qatar is covered by the scheme”.

Dr Ali explained that those on a visit to the country would be required to pay insurance premiums while applying for visas and that the amount to be paid would be based on their length of stay in the country. He went on to say “we will be working with the Ministry of Interior to ensure that everyone has their health insurance status tag with the national identification cards and those on short stay will be also be issued with a similar card, which will be relevant throughout their stay here”. He also said that the Health Insurance Company, to be established by the SCH and whose budget should be approved by the council, would be responsible for the day to day implementation and administration of the SHI scheme.