New compulsory health insurance system introduced in Qatar

Qatar recently announced its intention to revamp its compulsory health insurance scheme, enacting a new law which is due to come into force in May 2022. The new compulsory health insurance scheme will apply to all expatriates and visitors to Qatar . The new scheme will replace an earlier scheme (SEHA) that was dissolved in 2015. In this article, we take a look at how the new scheme will work, what it means for employers and the insurance market in Qatar, and the implications for unregistered foreigners. health insurers operating in the region.

The impending law and implementing regulations are expected to expand Qatar’s healthcare sector to ease the pressure placed on it by its largely expatriate population.

The introduction of the law comes as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup and will see a huge influx of visitors. National insurance companies in Qatar are well positioned to capitalize on the momentum.

Full details of how the program will work and be implemented are still awaited.

The law

The Ministry of Public Health (‘MOPH‘) announced that the new compulsory health insurance system will be implemented for all non-Qatari nationals living and visiting Qatar. The new system was enacted under Law No. 22 of 2021 regulating health services in Qatar (the ‘Law‘). The law was published in the Qatar Official Gazette on November 4, 2021 and repeals all old laws governing health services. The law will enter into force on May 4, 2022, six months from the date of its publication in the Official Journal.

Key changes

The announcement of the law introduces a number of important changes to the current health insurance system in Qatar:

  • All non-Qatari nationals and visitors to Qatar must have private health insurance for the duration of their stay to receive basic medical services.
  • Employers must enroll their non-Qatari employees and their family members in the compulsory health insurance scheme through contracts with insurance companies registered with the MOPH.
  • The same obligations apply to sponsors of expatriates in Qatar, such as the recruiter, to provide basic health insurance coverage.
  • Employers will have to prove that their employees are covered by the compulsory health insurance scheme when issuing or renewing their residence permit. Basic health insurance will be a prerequisite for obtaining any form of permit or visa rather than the current requirement for people over 60.
  • Additional health services beyond the basic health insurance requirement may be provided by the employer or recruiter under contract.
  • Fines will be imposed on employers or recruiters who fail to provide basic health insurance to their employees and eligible family members.
  • Detailed implementing regulations will be published to provide more details on how the law will work in practice.

What does this mean for the insurance market in Qatar?

The SEHA scheme introduced in Qatar in 2013 provided for a single public insurance company (National Health Insurance Company – NHIC) providing basic coverage to expatriates and Qatari nationals. The plan was administered by an outsourced TPA.

The SEHA regime was abolished at the end of 2015 and the NHIC was duly liquidated. Health insurance reverted to an ad hoc private medical scheme, with the government of Qatar absorbing the costs of all other residents and the health costs of citizens.

The new scheme appears to contemplate that private insurers licensed by the Department of Health and Sanitation be allowed to offer prescribed minimum levels of coverage as established by the scheme. The MOPH is likely to play an additional role as a regulator of health insurance services. It is not known what licenses or authorizations will be required by brokers and APTs.

However, if the program follows those implemented in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it can be expected that MOPH will require all participants in the insurance market chain to be licensed. to provide health insurance-related services as part of the program. .

This means that foreign insurers, brokers or TPAs, which currently have no presence in Qatar, will not be able to participate in the program, unless they create and obtain the required authorization from MOPH. It is not yet clear whether registration requirements will extend to supplement health services as well, which could then impact the ability of unregistered insurers to provide this form of coverage.

We will have to wait for the details of the regulations before we understand how the regime will work.

Deployment of the scheme

The plan is expected to come into effect in May 2022. Insurance policies issued before that date will remain in force until their expiration. There is a question mark as to whether this transition phase will apply to policies issued by unregistered insurers. It is also not yet clear whether there will be universal application of the scheme, or whether it will be rolled out in phases.

The scheme does not currently contemplate compulsory insurance requirements for Qatari nationals. In Saudi Arabia and Dubai, nationals are required to have private medical insurance, while in Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Health administers the scheme for UAE nationals, which is administered by a local insurer.

Action required

It is not only the insurance market that will have to prepare for the deployment of the new system. Employers and sponsors will need to familiarize themselves with the requirements. Details of the various plans to be required and offered, as well as the costs, are still pending. Health care providers will also be interested to see the prescribed level of benefits that is mandatory under the new scheme.