Adjustments possible to minimize suffering
KUWAIT CITY, Aug 23: The announcement of impending price increases for healthcare services across public centers in Kuwait for non-nationals was met with an outcry from the expatriate workforce who found it unfair as they make the mandatory health insurance payments and contribute to the healthcare economy.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr Ahmad Al Shatti addressed this grievance, saying, “Whatever price is suggested and ratified in the decree is still under the real cost of the Ministry of Health according to our economic calculations of the medical services; it is also below the Ministry of Finance recommendations.”
He assured that there would be no increase in expatriate medical insurance for the next few years and stressed that the new measures undertaken will be under evaluation. “If any step is needed to minimize the suffering or strike a balance between all the options, then it will be taken.” He noted that any increase in fees will be unpopular and resisted by the people but he pointed out that the healthcare prices in Kuwait have remained unchanged since 1993.
He described the rise as being a nominal one with all basic services like vaccinations covered and several groups exempted from the increase as stipulated by the decree. He also assured that emergencies will be taken seriously and handled appropriately, “We will do everything possible to not see a bleeding man or someone with a fracture denied medical services because he is not able to pay.”
He stressed that the idea behind the hike is to economize the consumption as free and cheap medication and services had led to rampant misuse. He explained that the new Ministerial Decree which was issued took into consideration two categories, visitors to the country and the expatriate residents.
The MOH had observed medical manipulations from many coming to the country on visit visas. “There is a difference between medical tourism and visiting to see your family”, he said pointing out that many visitors availed of orthopedic procedures, open heart surgeries, took courses of very expensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and opted for delivery in Kuwait.
A series of MOH technical committee meetings that looked into the matter recommended increasing the cost of different services for visitors to close to that of the private sector thus boosting up the private sector and minimizing the load on the public sector. Resident expats can also make similar decisions for tests such as CT scans and MRIs. He shared that healthcare costs are on the rise all over the world.
While costs would earlier run into less than a few hundred million, at present MOH costs amount to KD 3 billion. He also pointed out the cost of drugs is KD 300 million, of which two-thirds are spent on non-Kuwaitis. He reiterated that the cost of medication is increasing worldwide and revealed the high prices of new generation medicines is a significant problem as people do not want to use old generation medication which is just as lifesaving or effective.
He shared that the MOH will aim for a decentralized strategy in the future with each center having their own budget and services to compete with each other, while the MOH performs the function of policy making, supervision and auditing. He shared that there are plenty of ideas being implemented to provide better healthcare in Kuwait such as the social security hospitals coming up for workers which he hopes will minimize misuse and raise up the quality of the healthcare delivery systems.
Dr Al Shatti also shared that the Health Minister has taken note of the minimal choices for affordable private health insurance available in the country. He hopes that the new contract will attract many medical insurance companies to come in, increase competition and hopefully reduce the costs of private health insurance.
Lastly, he affirmed that it is better to invest in health rather than in sickness. He stated that it was important to invest in people and teach them to watch their diet and lifestyle, avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs, and be active and go for periodical check-ups.
The leading cause of death in Kuwait is cardiovascular disease, road traffic accidents, and malignancies and cancer, with every one in four people suffering from diabetes or hypertension, and the prevalence of obesity being one of the highest in the world. “There is plenty to be done before spending a lot on the treatment and rehabilitation. It is worth spending and concentrating on prevention and a healthy lifestyle.”
By Cinatra Fernandes Arab Times Staff