Expats in Kuwait panic as controversial health fees start date nears

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The countdown to the implementation of Kuwait’s controversial new health fees for foreigners working or staying in the region has been marked with a rush on hospitals, according to local reports.

And this weekend – according to Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al Seyassah – more last-minute rushes are expected in hospitals as expats in the region rush to take advantage of the free or reduced cost healthcare, before it expires on 1 October.

Al Seyassah has reported of one example of an expat woman who has pleaded with a hospital in Kuwait to have an emergency caesarean done in order to avoid paying higher delivery costs.

Dr Mahdi Al Fadhli, director of Al Farwniya Hospital, said that the woman’s request was turned down as it would endanger the foetus, but added that financial concerns about the decision to increase medical fees starting next month are casting a shadow as some patients are rushing to hospitals and health centres in the last days of September, the Al Seyassah report said.

As reported, earlier this year, Kuwait said it would increase health care fees for foreigners for the first time in more than two decades.

Aggressive campaigns

The decision to hike the fees was taken after a number of Kuwaiti MPs launched aggressive media campaigns, as reported here, against providing health services to foreigners for free or at low prices.

As has been the case in Saudi Arabia, recent drops in global oil prices have put additional pressure on Kuwait, meaning that the Gulf state can no longer afford to foot the bill and expatriates will have to pay more to enjoy living in Kuwait.

More than two-thirds of the 4.4 million people living in Kuwait are foreigners, mainly unskilled labourers in the construction and service sectors and domestic helpers.

“Even though we support the increase in the fees in order to meet the higher costs of medical equipment, there is an urgent need to take into consideration the human dimension and the average income of a large number of foreigners,” Khalid Al Otaibi, a Kuwaiti MP, told Al Seyassah.

“There is also a need to reconsider some of the fees especially because most foreigners could no longer afford some services. In fact, the fees are much higher than those applied in neighbouring countries and even in Europe,” Al Otaibi said.