Oman has always been a draw for expat workers, especially blue-collar employees from India and Bangladesh. In many cases these expats – typically working in the construction field – can earn far more money by temporarily leaving their home country in favour of the Middle East. For many, finding work in Oman has become the difference between subsistence and being able to put away money for the future.
On the other hand, despite all the benefits for expats moving to Oman, there is one “fly in the ointment”; namely that if you need medical assistance while in the Kingdom you’ll need to be able to pay for it. Whether this is out of your own pocket or via an expatriate health insurance policy doesn’t matter, but those unable to pay can find themselves in an uncomfortable position.
As it turns out the Omani medical establishment won’t necessarily withhold treatment until payment has been received, but may hold expats to ransom after their return to health. There have even been cases of expats passing away in Oman, yet their families struggling to access the deceased due to unpaid medical bills. For poor workers from the Indian sub-continent these medical fees can be a real handicap.
Worse, new rules are being introduced into Oman will mean that expects entering the country for a second time will need to produce a letter from their last employer. The goal is to ensure that expat workers aren’t skipping the country without giving the necessary notice to their employer – or without settling any outstanding medical bills. These checks make keeping abreast of any medical bills doubly important for expat workers.
Oddly, for a country that expects its expats to pay for their own medical care, it seems that health insurance isn’t obligatory for blue collar workers. Unsurprisingly, most therefore opt not to invest in it, hoping they simply won’t need medical care while abroad.
In avoiding the cost of health insurance these expat workers can of course send more money home to their families, but there is a trade-off. The construction industry – in which many of these expats work – is one of the more dangerous trades, to medical help is frequently required. For those requiring medical attention but lacking the necessary paperwork, skipping the insurance can turn into quite a false economy.
According to the Omani government it is actually the employer’s responsibility to foot any medical bills, even for workers that have no health insurance. The reality, as you might imagine, is rather different, with some workers being left high and dry by both their own government and their employer.
The message is clear; if you’re travelling to Oman either as an expat or a tourist, invest in suitable health insurance before you go. Irrespective of whether you think you’re going to get ill, it is simply not a risk worth taking.