Medical insurance to be made mandatory for all visitors to Kuwait

March 10, 2019

Visitors to Kuwait will now need to be covered by medical insurance for the duration of their stay in the country, according to a draft law tabled in parliament last week.

The draft law stipulates that the interior ministry should approve applications for visit visas only if they are accompanied by medical insurance coverage for the duration of the applicant’s stay in Kuwait.

Lawmakers said the draft law is intended to prevent visitors benefiting from the services and medicines provided by the state at public health facilities to citizens and residents. The bill, which won approval from 47 lawmakers with only 4 opposed to it, reflected the wide consensus among lawmakers that expatriates and foreign visitors were responsible for deteriorating health services in the country.

Some parliamentarians in support of the bill alleged that residents and their dependents who came on visit visas misused and misappropriated medical services and resources of the state. One lawmaker claimed that there were foreigners who took the medicines provided by hospitals or health centers to offer them as gifts for their relatives, or to sell in pharmacies in their home countries. Another parliamentarian alleged there were foreign patients who came to Kuwait for post-natal treatment, cancer treatment, obesity treatment and others and called for the imposition of an insurance scheme.

Expatriates are usually accused of clogging services at health facilities and using up medical resources, thereby depriving nationals from receiving due treatment in a timely manner. In the past, the government cajoled by lawmakers, had sought to relieve pressure at health facilities with slipshod solutions, including banning expatriates from accessing medical services in the morning hours.

In 2013, a public hospital in Jahra was the first to provide medical services in the morning session only to Kuwaitis. Treatment for expatriates, except in emergency situation, was confined to the evening session. More recently, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Hospital, the largest in the Middle-East with a bed capacity of 1,168, which was officially inaugurated in November 2018, is slated to provide health services exclusively to Kuwaitis.

Other measures intended to discourage expatriates from accessing public health services include steeply increasing the health charges for treatments, services and medicines, and imposing medical insurance and building separate medical facilities for expatriates.

The draft will now be referred to the government and the health ministry will have one month after its publication in the official gazette to issue its bylaws that will decide, among other topics, the amount to be paid by foreigners when applying for a visit visa to Kuwait.