The Qatar healthcare system has undergone some recent changes including the suspension of the Social Health Insurance Scheme (Seha), the disbanding of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) whose role will now be taken over by the Ministry of Public Health, and the appointment of H E Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari as Minister of Public Health.

Despite the changes, the Emir reiterated at a Cabinet of Ministers meeting on 27 January 2016 the importance of healthcare in Qatar.

Qatar’s healthcare sector began developing in the 1950s and became more robust in 1978 when the Ministry of Health developed a comprehensive scheme for building a primary health care system to launch primary health care services through 9 health centres, covering different parts of the country, and capable of providing basic and essential health and medical services (preventive and curative).

The following year, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) was established as the premier non-profit health care provider managing 5 specialized hospitals and 24 primary health care centres - covering every area of medicine. Access to HMC was through the national health care card provided to all citizens and residents of Qatar.

In 2005, SCH was created and became responsible for regulating both public and private health care, as well as setting policies, goals and objectives.

The introduction of the Qatar National Vision 2030 by Qatar’s General Secretariat for Development Planning in 2008 (QNV 2030), launched as a roadmap for Qatar society, set out a number of significant developments to Qatar’s healthcare sector, including but not limited to the following:

  • Launch of the National Health Strategy 2011 – 2016 (NHS) to implement QNV 2030.
  • Establishment of a Program Management Office to support and enable the implementation of the NHS.
  • Establishment of the Primary Health Care Corporation as an independent corporation with its own independent budget.
  • The of the introduction of Law No 7 of 2013 governing Social Health Insurance for the purpose of providing basic healthcare services to everyone in Qatar (Social Health Insurance Law).
  • The proposal of the launch of National Health Strategy 2017 – 2022.

The Social Health Insurance Law set up the Social Health Insurance Scheme, which is now called "Seha" which was run by the National Health Insurance Company (NHIC), a Qatari joint stock company wholly owned by the Government of Qatar. In accordance with the NHIC Mission Statement "to run the National Health Insurance Scheme providing access to reliable and quality healthcare for all people in Qatar in a cost effective manner," Seha was launched and by 2014 provided health care coverage for all Qataris (and this was to be extended to cover white-collar and then blue-collar expats by 2015). On 31 December 2015, Seha was suspended by SCH. The Qatar Cabinet of Ministers have publically confirmed that they intend to support the private sector in a far more comprehensive manner, by allowing private sector healthcare insurance companies to provide healthcare insurance cover for everyone.

A recent GCC Healthcare Industry Report has predicted that, in the five years to 2020, spending in the healthcare sector in Qatar is to double again to reach $8.8 billion, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 12.7 percent, placing Qatar in the middle of the table in terms of healthcare spending forecasts for the region. The report also stated, amongst other things, that:

  • Qatar topped the regional table in terms of per capita spending, which stood at $2,043 per person according to 2013 figures.
  • Historically the Qatar government has paid for 80 percent of the country’s total healthcare spending, with the remainder met by the private sector.
  • the Ministry of Economy and Commerce and the then-SCH have identified five sites that could be used for public-private partnership health projects.

The above comes as a result of "a rising population, high disposable income, rising life expectancy, low infant mortality, and increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity which have led to a concurrent increase in the demand for healthcare services" according to Alpen Capital.

While the region may be currently facing economic challenges, the development of healthcare in Qatar continues to be fundamental to Qatar meeting its QNV 2030 and the suspension of Seha’s activities appears to indicate that the government intends for the private sector to play a significant role in off-setting the government’s expenditure.