Kuwaiti MPs urge last minute delay for expat health fees

Published:  18 Sep at 6 PM
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With just days to go before the planned introduction of Kuwait’s unpopular expat health fees law, local MPs are urging its delay or postponement.

As large numbers of less well-off expats pack their belongings and leave, it’s now clear to a number of Kuwait’s parliamentarians that the majority of expat labour in the emirate will have difficulty making the payments. The rule was introduced in August, and was the first attempt to increase fees for healthcare in more than two decades.

Expatriates themselves, a group of Kuwaiti analysts and many local economists have since branded the increase as unfair, poorly planned and rash, as they began to realise the unwanted effects of the price hike. The introduction of the new law was spurred by the aggressive efforts of some lawmakers to either stop providing expat healthcare,either for free or affordably.

Their arguments centred on the massive fall in oil revenues possibly preventing the emirate from being able to fund expat healthcare, with some also stating hospitals were so crammed with sick foreigners they were unable to serve Kuwaiti nationals. According to MP Khalid al Otaibi, although parliament supports the introduction of increased fees, the human dimension plus the average income of the majority of expat workers cannot be ignored.

He adds some fees need to be reconsidered as related services would be impossible to afford for many lower-waged foreigners. Fee levels were fixed at far higher rates than in other Gulf States and even in some European countries. Al Otaibi believes the law should be postponed until at least early in 2018.

MP Humoud al Khudhair stated a meeting with Kuwait’s Minister of Health was possible, as was the chance that some fees might be reduced, adding he still agrees with the need to bring in the increases. He said he is not against expatriate workers and agreed there is a need to re-evaluate the fees.
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