In 2017, two ministerial decrees were issued to review the health service fees in hospitals and specialized centers for expats registered in the health insurance system, and revise the fees for non-Kuwaitis who come to Kuwait on visit visas. The first decision stipulated an expatriate should pay KD 2 for a visit to a clinic instead of KD 1 and KD 5 at hospitals instead of KD 2. The fees include the disbursement of medicines, regular x-rays and regular analyses. Visiting an outpatient clinic will cost KD 10 and a stay in the public ward will cost KD 10 per day.
The decision provoked widespread outrage among expatriates, who considered the new fees exorbitant and beyond the financial capacity of many of them. Some expatriates sent their families back home and remained alone in Kuwait due to the increases in health fees, in addition to the increase in apartment rentals, skyrocketing school fees and the high cost of living in recent years.
Last week, the health minister issued another ministerial decree to amend some health fees for non-Kuwaiti residents registered with the health insurance system. According to the new decision, visits to public and specialized hospitals will now cost KD 10, including medicines, regular x-rays and regular analyses.
This is a matter of concern. Kuwait is among the countries that has attracted expatriate workers since ages. Workers are divided into two categories – those who work in the government sector, such as teachers and doctors, and those working in the private sector. Workers in the latter category earn modest salaries amid the high cost of living. With prices of food and consumer goods also increasing, it’s a daily suffering, especially for those who have families in Kuwait.
I believe that the right to fair and just treatment is an inherent human right, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in many international conventions, notably the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The expat is compelled to pay for health insurance, so they are entitled to obtain necessary medical services. Such decisions add pressure on expatriates and make it almost impossible for most of them to keep or bring their families here, making Kuwait an unattractive environment for skilled and creative workers, who are needed.
Workers are forced to send their savings abroad instead of spending on their families in Kuwait, leading to a recession in many commercial sectors. I do not want Kuwait to become a male-only society for expatriates. All business owners in the private sector must be responsible for their staff and their health insurance and its costs in full. Only then will they realize how hard the life of an expat is in Kuwait.
By Muna Al-Fuzai