Living in a foreign country may seem flashy and dreamy on the outside until you actually pay attention to the nitty-gritty of living overseas. As an expat, you may find yourself in hard-pressed situations particularly when it comes to availing healthcare, which, in reality, is a big deal to every single one of us. So, with the rising trend on healthcare costs not just in the Middle East but also worldwide, it’s important to carefully understand your options to make the most of your available resources .
In Kuwait, expats have been paying between 30 – 50 KD for health insurance on an annual basis as part of the requirements for residency. However, given that this has become a requirement to continue staying in the country, many expats wonder where this budget goes to and what exactly can they get from it, especially since they also pay for hospital services.
The Healthcare Situation in Kuwait
Recently, the Minister of Health, Dr Jamal Al-Harbi approved the motion for the increase in the health service fees to be paid by expats starting Oct. 1, 2017 in preparation for the launch of the health insurance hospital program set to take effect in 2018. The annual health guarantee costs for expats will remain the same until 2020. No changes were made on the health insurance costs for expats, as well.
With over 1.8 million expats from the private sector with health coverage living in Kuwait, hospitals and health insurance centres are sure to get their work cut out for them. This will lay off some of the pressure from the ministry’s facilities which will result to better services and improved level of healthcare delivery in the nation.
The dilemma lies in the fact that as the cost of health services rises, expats with fixed salaries and their families may not be able to cope with their dues, especially with the cost of living and school fees in Kuwait nowadays.
Getting Health Insurance in Kuwait
Therefore, as the necessity of getting health insurance in Kuwait is at an all-time high, expats need to be extra cautious when picking out health insurance plans so as not to miss out on the most important services and features.
And just like with any type of insurance, consumers need to do a little homework and read the small print to know what’s covered and what’s not. In general, all policies have restrictions and limitations; for example, it is common to find a policy clause which states ‘pre-existing’ medical conditions are not included in the health insurance coverage. Similarly, certain occupations are oftentimes excluded or may incur significant surcharges with health insurance coverage as do high-risk sports activities although by definition, the term ‘high-risk’ may vary from one provider to another.
Most insurance providers also set a limit cost on certain treatments for a year on top of the overall annual limit for all treatment coverage. Watch out for policies that limit the number of days you can stay in the hospital for as well as those that terminate once you hit your retirement age. It is best to stay away from them. Also, check the specified coverage period of your policy as some providers tend to terminate a policy by the end of the given period if they find that your coverage costs have exceeded their allowable maximum cost.
When considering an international policy, check whether or not your provider covers medical expenses in the US, since treatment costs are quite high over there. You can choose to obtain add-ons to your policy for more coverage, but doing so could cost you more than what you’re willing to pay on your premium.
Most standard policies cover emergency tooth fillings and extractions, but full dental insurance requires one to buy a ‘gold standard’ health plan which, as the name suggests, can be quite pricey. Depending on the procedure to be done, dental costs can quickly accumulate particularly from specialized treatments which involve crowns, bridges, or other cosmetic procedures including prosthetics and orthodontics (which are typically excluded in most plans).
Even ’gold standard’ plan holders may have to pay upfront for other work to be done such as the selection of the material used for the crown fillings and for dental services provided which include the number of dental visits and amount of dental work covered for an entire year. Policy holders also need to take note if coverage includes x-rays and dental prophylaxis (simple cleaning).
With the rising costs of healthcare all over the world, expats need to pay careful attention to health insurance plans particularly in the coverage and benefits they offer to get your money’s worth especially if you’re staying in a country with a relatively high cost of living such as Kuwait.