KUWAIT: Kuwait is considering plans to stop all access to public health services for expatriates - though they pay KD 50 per year for health insurance. The idea is to reduce stress on the government budget, weakened by lower oil international prices.

Suggestions in this regard include doing away with 'harmful subsidies' which include healthcare for expats in public medical facilities, according to a report by the Supreme Council for Planning and Development.

The report calls for imitating an example followed in the 1990's when the Kuwaiti government scrapped free education for expatriates in Kuwait, thus banning foreigners from studying at public and forcing them to enroll in private schools. The action led to a boom in the private sector and skyrocketing of private school tuition fees.

The scrapping of access to public health services would leave foreigners no option but to pay for private health insurance. Though it is unclear how the government will handle the KD 50 annual health insurance fee it currently charges each of the country's 3 million expatriates.

Shareholding company

Last year Kuwait established a shareholding company through the public-private-partnership (PPP) system, to service expatriates health needs. The company intends to build three 700-bed hospitals that provide integrated medical services to foreigners in Kuwait. The company also sells health insurance policies inside and outside Kuwait.

Expatriate health insurance would rise to KD 150 per person from the KD 50 per person per year. In a report published in local Arabic daily Al-Anbaa, no timeframe was given for the plan. It mentions, however, that the cabinet has assigned the finance ministry, oil ministry, commerce ministry, General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, Fatwa and Legislation Department and the privatization bureau to study the recommendation.