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Wednesday , February 26 2020

Poor priced out of health – Expats to suffer

KUWAIT CITY, Aug 13: From the month of October, majority of expatriates in Kuwait will not be able to afford healthcare services in the country, due to the new system of fees to be implemented by Ministry of Health.

Statistically, it will be almost impossible for nearly 600,000 expatriate workers in Kuwait to be able to afford staying for at least two nights in an Intensive Care Unit.

According to the latest statistics issued by the Central Statistical Bureau, the salaries of 600,000 expatriates in the private sector range from KD 60 to KD 119. These employees constitute 43 percent of the total 1.396 million employees in the private sector.

Government agencies have about 100,000 expatriates, most of who receive average salaries ranging from KD 250 and KD 400, making them the largest segment that is vulnerable to the pressures of the new health charges.

Theoretically, if one of these expatriates meets with a sudden accident that require intensive care, overnight observation or surgery, he/she will face a financial dilemma of either giving up their full salary to cover two nights of healthcare, or staying away from public and private hospitals and instead seeking alternative medical solutions and depending on people who are not medically licensed.

Hence, greater problems will arise, particularly the emergence of a black market for random medicines that will exploit people who earn low incomes. This will also result in consequent risk of transmission and increased number of deaths due to error and infection.

Practically, this segment of the population may continue to go to polyclinics based on the new regulation, which has raised the consultation fee from KD1 to KD 2. However, the concern will be regarding the need to transfer a patient to outpatient clinics in hospitals or for urgent surgery, or even for performing laboratory analysis or radiographs.

In such cases, the expatriate will have to pay their salary of about eight months. Even to test carcinogenic thyroid gland or treat prostate tumors or tumors of the nerve glands will require salary of about eight months. As per the new regulation, just a thyrogen injection will cost KD 500.

Statistics also showed that the number of employees whose salaries range between KD 120 and KD 300 is about 455,400. In order to undergo red blood cell tests or blood plasma checks after checking with the outpatient clinics and paying KD10 to receive consultation and diagnosis services, an employee of this category will have to pay salary of more than two and a half months.

When reviewing the new fees list, we find that the minimum cost for medical examination of an expatriate is not less than KD20.

A pregnant woman must pay KD50 for delivery and KD 10 for each day she spends in the hospital, which is usually three days after giving birth.

With the application of new fees, which have risen by 100 to 1,000 percent, there are growing fears that the labor market will be affected. If skilled workers face health problems that cannot be treated due to their financial constraints, it is expected for a large portion of them to seek other labor markets.

There they can at least achieve a balanced equation between their income and the amount of their monthly expenditures. Based on reality, expatriates with large incomes will not be affected by the changes in the health fee list, because they represent just a modest percentage of the total number of non- Kuwaitis.

Some expatriate officials, or those referred to as mid-level and senior-level employees, work for companies that provide them with health insurance for them and their families. Therefore, they will not be impacted by the new fees and will only know about them through newspapers.

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