Kennedys law firm has released a legal update on the suspension of Qatar’s mandatory health insurance scheme – and the opportunity this means for international private medical insurance (IPMI) providers.

The law firm said recent news confirmed that Qatar’s government has suspended the roll out of the mandatory health insurance programme as at 31 December 2015.

Kennedys said any plans to roll out the programme have been put on hold indefinitely, as expressed in a Cabinet meeting of 23 December 2015.

Under Law No 7 of 2013 (the "Law") Kennedys said the aim was to provide access to universal healthcare to all residents of Qatar.
Under the Law, in the initial phase, all Qatari nationals were to be provided healthcare cover at the cost of the Qatari Government. The subsequent phases were to involve providing health insurance to all other expatriate residents, the cost of which was to be borne by their respective employers and/or sponsors.

The enforcement of these legal obligations linked resident entry and immigration requirements as its watchdog.

Effective from 1 January 2016, Kennedys said Qataris who have been benefitting from the national healthcare scheme will no longer be able to use it. The reports state that these nationals will transition to one of the leading private insurance companies in the country within the next six months but did not specify the interim measures and the transitional details.

The law firm added there is now a great opportunity for the IPMI provider market to take advantage of this sudden change in direction and provide its product offerings through compliant distribution channels both for the nationals and expatriates alike in Qatar.

Apart from the limited statements made by the authorities, Kennedys said there are currently no official reports on how health care insurance will be managed moving forward.

In its update, the law firm said: "We await further instructions on this topic, but IPMI providers should look at the existing set-ups and distribution channels to comply with the existing insurance laws of Qatar."