MP: New health fees should not hurt poor expats

KUWAIT: Islamist opposition MP Waleed Al- Tabtabaei said yesterday that the government must make sure that the new hike in health fees imposed on expatriates will not hurt poor patients. The lawmaker said he is not against imposing medical fees on expatriates in the country, but he wants the government to ensure that poor patients are not hurt by establishing a fund to help them or introducing affordable health insurance.  The ministry of health began implementing at the start of October a decision to hike the cost of medical services for expatriates at public hospitals and clinics. Some of the charges have been raised several-fold, like hospital stays or hiring a private room. The new fees do not apply to Kuwaiti citizens, who continue to enjoy completely free medical services.

Former MP and ex-minister Maasouma Al-Mubarak meanwhile criticized the health ministry for imposing the hikes in medical charges and then issuing repeated decisions exempting certain categories. Mubarak, who herself was a health minister, said that after hiking the medical charges, the minister issued decisions exempting domestic workers and later spouses of Kuwaiti women and their children. She said that if this policy continues, the decision will lose its value and will only apply to a small section of people. Accordingly, she added, the issue should have been carefully studied before implementing it.

Meanwhile, Minister of Justice and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Faleh Al-Azab yesterday denied reports that an imminent Cabinet reshuffle will take place. The minister said that the government is continuing with its work and constitutional obligations in carrying out its national duties and “nothing is changing”. The reports came amid threats by a large number of lawmakers to grill ministers over a variety of allegations. The first grilling was filed on Sunday against State Minister for Cabinet Affairs and acting Information Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah.

Two opposition lawmakers, Riyadh Al-Adasani and Abdulkarim Al-Kandari, filed the grilling over a series of allegations of financial and administrative violations. The grilling appears to have split the opposition, with Islamist opposition MP Jamaan Al-Harbash criticizing the grilling and alleging that certain quarters are behind the grilling with the aim to jeopardize parliamentary life. Adasani yesterday responded for the second day in a row, strongly lashing out at Harbash and his Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) and charging that Harbash defends the government.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 09/10/2017