Bahrain will bring in compulsory health insurance for expatriates later this year and citizens from 2023. The net result will be a fall in outbound medical tourism.
The Supreme Council of Health and Aon Bahrain have signed an agreement on the implementation of a health insurance scheme for foreign residents within the framework of the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme.
Aon will work with the Council to determine mandatory health packages for foreign residents, review the conditions that must be met by insurance companies wishing to provide these packages, and provide an electronic platform to enable employers to choose offers from insurance companies for the health packages, registration of beneficiaries, and the gradual implementation of the NHI programme.
The project aims to ensure cover of basic healthcare services for foreign residents by providing a package of primary and secondary healthcare services in addition to treatment in emergencies and accident cases. Insurance cover is to be provided by health insurance companies in the private sector.
The Ministry of Health plans to start applying the mandatory health insurance to foreigners in the third quarter of 2022, and to Bahrainis at the beginning of 2023.
The compulsory insurance scheme for foreigners and residents aims to transform a culture of dependence on government health services into a comprehensive and self-financed health insurance system.
According to official data, the new health insurance project will cover 720,000 foreigners residing in Bahrain.
Most expats are currently registered in the basic cover system of the Ministry of Health under which they pay an annual fee of BHD72 (US$190) each.
When the mandatory health insurance scheme is implemented, employers will be obligated to insure the foreign worker and his family with licensed insurance companies in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s Social Health Insurance Programme (SEHATI) for locals is being launched in 2023. With SEHATI, Bahrainis will continue to be eligible for free services at public health facilities. Bahrainis could pay an additional insurance premium to access private sector treatment.
In May 2018, the government issued Health Insurance Law No.23 of 2018 that makes health insurance cover compulsory for all citizens, residents and visitors to the country from January 2019. The law applies to all nationals, residents and visitors (beneficiaries) subject to certain limited exceptions. These exceptions include civilian and military personnel of the Bahrain Defence Force and their families; and hospitals and medical facilities affiliated with the BDF.
Three years of delays mean that SEHATI has been pushed back to the second half of 2022 for expats and locals from 2023.