Qatar’s National Vision 2030 sets out the Qatari government’s goal of improving the health of Qatar’s population by developing a world class and integrated healthcare system. As part of this goal, a national health insurance scheme named ‘Seha’ is currently being implemented which will be accessible to all citizens, residents and visitors. Employers in Qatar are eagerly awaiting further guidance on the value of premiums which will be payable on behalf of employees for participation in the mandatory universal health insurance scheme.

Seha is to be rolled out in five phases, the first phase was launched in July 2013, and the final phases are scheduled to be launched in 2015, and will extend cover to white and blue collar expatriate workers and visitors to Qatar. Although Seha, as currently rolled out, allows eligible beneficiaries to obtain healthcare services from enrolled healthcare providers, Seha is not yet operating as a true insurer by receiving premiums and managing the associated risks; instead, we understand that the government is paying healthcare providers through a direct debit scheme on the basis of rates which have been established by the National Health Insurance Company (the government owned, exclusive provider of basic health insurance cover).

Health insurance

Mandatory insurance cover for all basic healthcare services will be provided exclusively by the National Health Insurance Company. The extent of this cover is determined by an individual’s nationality and residency status. Accredited health insurance companies will be entitled to offer insurance cover for additional healthcare services only.

Premium payments

The value of health insurance premiums has yet to be determined, but will be set according to generally accepted actuarial principles, and without discrimination between beneficiaries in respect of age, gender, previous health status or any other risk factors.

The Government is responsible for paying premiums for Qatari nationals. Employers are responsible for paying premiums for their employees and dependents, and are prohibited from recovering premiums from employees.

Implications for employers

The introduction of the compulsory health insurance scheme is a significant development that is in keeping with the approach by other GCC states in the region, and will significantly enhance the financing of the developing healthcare system in Qatar. It is a welcome step for employees and their dependants, and ought to ensure the ongoing well-being of the Qatar workforce.

However, the new scheme will impose additional costs on employers. Depending on the value of the premiums introduced in 2015, the introduction of this new healthcare system may have a significant impact on the way in which employers identify and select employees and may impact on factors such as the manner in which employers price their remuneration packages in Qatar. Previously, employers were not required to make any specific health insurance premium payments for their employees. Under the new system, employers will be responsible for paying premiums for their employees and their Qatar resident dependants, which will increase the costs of hiring workers in Qatar. In other GCC states (such as Abu Dhabi) premium rates for low-paid workers have been fixed at less than USD 300 per year, which does make the scheme more affordable for employers.

Note: all Qatari Laws quoted in this article are issued in Arabic and there are no official translations. For the purposes of drafting this article Clyde & Co has used its own translation and interpreted the same in the context of Qatari laws, regulations and current market practice.