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Health insurance for Qatar

The health services in Qatar are usually of an excellent standard in the public, government-run hospitals.

Qatar’s latest important investment in medical care provision is the Sidra Medical and Research Center. The Qatar Foundation, set up in 1995 to modernize the Emirate and improve education, has endowed the project with £4.6bn. This impressive new medical centre will focus on the health of women and children, although it will also provide general health care to all.  Eventually, it will employ over 5,000 staff, hiring around 2,000 nurses, 600 doctors, and 800 other health care professionals as well as support staff and management. The hospital is currently accepting inpatients in selected women and children’s clinics with walk-in patients likely to be accepted from mid-2018 onwards. Qatar’s health services employ many expatriates already. Sidra’s new Chief Medical Officer is an Australian with Middle Eastern experience and in 2014 (well before opening), 14% of its medical employees were British.

As is common in the Gulf States, health care in general in Qatar is high-tech, well-funded, and well-staffed. There are over 100 hospitals and clinics in Doha, and the major government hospital, Hamad Hospital, runs five other hospitals and 24 medical clinics around the capital. Again, most employees speak English, including many educated and trained in the Commonwealth and U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) statistics give residents of Qatar a reported life expectancy of around 78 years, on par with other developed countries.

Accessing public health care

Qatar provides basic public health care of a very high standard for all its residents and also permits emergency cover for visitors. For residents, this is accessed via a national health care card, available to locals and expatriates alike. Qatar’s health card is issued at a cost of QAR 100 (around £20/$27) and should you lose it, another card can be obtained for the same cost again. You apply at the Health Card Office in any Hamad Medical Corporation Clinic or the Rumailah Hospital. Showing this card at government medical centres ensures the cardholder free medical treatment and somewhat subsidised medications.

Sitting alongside this public provision, private health insurance is an absolute necessity for expatriates and was made compulsory by the Qatari government in 2014.  In recent years, Qatar launched a National Health Insurance scheme, SEHA, meaning ‘health’ in Arabic. It aims to provide basic health insurance cover to all residents. However, since 2015, the programme has been suspended. There are talks of a new medical insurance scheme being introduced, but as yet details of what this scheme would look like have yet to be released. The original requirement for anyone relocating to Qatar to have private health insurance therefore holds firm.

Arranging health insurance

There are various ways for your private health insurance to be arranged. You may need to pay for it yourself, or it could be included in your salary negotiations with employers. Employer-provided cover may be affected by your pay grade, and arrangements may be with only one provider. Other contracts will provide an allowance to be spent on health insurance with the company of your choice, with you supplementing the this to cover any gap between your employer’s contribution and the amount your chosen cover will cost.

Qatar is a developed country with excellent medical resources, knowledge, and skills. They network globally, and are ambitious in their aims for their country, as evidenced by their investment program in health, the environment, and education. There is political stability and no health care threats.

One concern related to health and well-being is homosexuality, which is illegal, and there are harsh penalties for those convicted. HIV testing is part of the health check necessary for Qatar residency and a positive result, will make your application to move to Qatar null and void. Assuming this isn’t a concern, you won’t be able to bring a partner of the same sex with you to Qatar, even if you are recognised as married at home. Single LGBTQ persons determined to live in Qatar will need to be very discreet in their behaviour and confidences. For more information, check out the latest advice from your home government, such as that found on the U.S. Passports and International Travel site.

There are various ways for your private health insurance to be arranged. You may need to pay for it yourself, or it could be included in your salary negotiations with your employer. Cover provided through your employment may be affected by your pay grade, and arrangements may be with only one provider. Other contracts will provide an allowance to be spent on health insurance with the company of your choice. You can usually supplement policy benefits of your choice that are above and beyond what your employer offers.

Differences in health cover and how it fits with free government provision can be straightforward or somewhat puzzling, so it is best to take advice on the usual questions, for example:

  • How much are you covered for?
  • How much do you need to contribute to any costs?
  • What specialists can you access?
  • Which treatments and hospitals are you covered for?

Some hospitals may be excluded from your insurance entirely, so do check before booking in for treatment.

World Health Organization (WHO)

The single WHO-monitored disease in Qatar is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which can prove fatal, with one non-fatal case being reported in 2016. The young man involved, worked with camels and regularly drank raw camel’s milk, both known risk factors. MERS-CoV is an acute respiratory virus, with non-specific early signs, suspected to be contracted by contact with animals, but especially camels, and regular hygiene measures should minimise the risk of contraction (e.g. hand-washing). Immunocompromised persons and those with renal failure, diabetes, or chronic lung disease should avoid markets and farms where the virus may be circulating. Food hygiene practices should be observed, such as not drinking raw camel milk or eating meat which has not been adequately cooked.

Our specialists can help you organise for your move to Qatar and can advise on the hospitals and services you may wish to use. We can also advise on how to travel with your prescription drugs safely, as this is not a straightforward situation.

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