Saudi Arabia Introduces Compulsory Health Insurance for Expats

Like so many other Gulf States, Saudi Arabia’s economy is fiercely dependent on expat workers.

Official figures from 2013 put the number of expats in the Saudi Kingdom at 9 million, with an estimated 1.6 million new visitors each year.

That’s not just a lot of people; it’s also a big strain on the healthcare system, which is often trying to dole out medical care to poorly paid manual workers who struggle to pay for even the most basic of care.

It seems that healthcare in Saudi Arabia is a growing problem, with many “free” medical centres being stretched to the limit.

Over the last few years the government has investigated one option after another to make healthcare more affordable, yet ensure that standards are not forced to drop.

And so it is that a new initiative has been introduced to stem the swell. As from next month all expatriate visitors with a few minor exceptions will be expected to purchase health insurance before entry into the country is granted. This applies to those in transit through the country.

The list of exceptions are:

  • Haj and Umrah pilgrims
  • Diplomats and foreign dignitaries
  • Guests of the State

Interestingly, this insurance, which will be a required part of the visa application process as of December 2015, will be issued by one of seven pre-approved health cooperatives. Information on these companies may be found here.

What this means is that if you’re heading to Saudi Arabia in the foreseeable future you’ll need to take great care that your insurance provider can cover you in the Saudi kingdom. Whether they do this directly or through an intermediary, it is likely that a number of insurance providers won’t be able to service the Saudi kingdom in the near future.

In line with the government mandate, the new compulsory insurance will cover expat visitors up to a maximum premium of SR100,000 – roughly equivalent to £17,000 at current exchange rates. This fee is expected to cover any and all emergency treatment required in the kingdom.

What isn’t clear is what happens once this threshold has been reached. While we would hope that very few expats get anywhere close to this premium limit, long-term care or repatriation could quickly eat into this premium. Some expats who want to be as fully covered as possible for all eventualities may want to consider investigating supplementary insurance policies offering a much higher premium.

Just a few of the expenses that this government-approved health insurance will cover includes medical check-ups, diagnosis and emergency treatment.

A variety of pre-approved emergency treatments are covered, including dialysis, dental emergencies and road traffic injuries. In line with many international health insurance policies the Saudi policies also include, if necessary, medical evacuation to another country for treatment, or repatriation of the insured visitors body.

Coming into force before Christmas this year, the mandatory insurance policies will cover both expats and their dependents during their stay in Saudi Arabia.

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