Mandatory health insurance soon

By: Kabeer Yousuf

MUSCAT: Health insurance policy for employees will be made mandatory for all the companies and will be yet another supporting document for visa clearances for new staff, according to the Ministry of Health. This decision has been there for some time after the GCC level meeting of the ministers of health decided to implement it but was not fully endorsed in Oman. However, a recent meeting has reaffirmed the country’s stand in protecting the interests of the working class and promulgated the new rule which will soon take effect.

Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, has earlier mentioned that the ministry, in line with the GCC decision, will implement the health insurance as mandatory for private companies in the country. Some of the neighbouring countries have already implemented it while some have failed in ensuring complete implementation.

“The Ministry of Health has decided to reinforce the decision of covering private sector employees with health insurance package and a rule will soon be drawn out,” Dr Waleed al Zadjali, President, Oman Medical Specialty Board (OMSB), told the Observer, adding that the recently held meeting at the ministry has designed finer aspects of the plan.

“We don’t want to make the same mistake which some other countries have made and we want to take one step at a time in implementing this rule. This will be mandatory for bigger companies and soon it will be applied to all companies as well”.

There have been complaints of increasing medical costs and low-paid employees were finding it difficult to cope up with the cost. Some employees, abandoned by sponsors were later rescued by either NGOs or were sent home at the mercy of private hospitals who are forced to waive huge medical bills.

Sometimes, hospitals find won’t release the dead body of a patient unless the bills are cleared off when the cost of the treatment runs into thousands of rials.

“There have been complaints of staff being exploited by their employers when it comes to major medical expenses and we don’t want this to happen, and all employees should be safeguarded in terms of their health,” he added.

Also, in some instances, the hospitals are demanding unwanted checkups, tests and scans for simple ailments. With this new rule, this practice too can be checked to a great extent, he hoped.

“It has been brought to our attention that most of the hospitals and clinics are demanding irrelevant scans and screenings for an employee who approaches the hospital. With this new rule, this can be checked to some extent as insurance firms can keep a system in place headed by a medical specialist to check the relevance and suitability of such tests,” Dr Zadjali added.

However, most of the companies, hypermarkets and other medium to large scale companies, when contacted, told the Observer that they do have employee insurance in place.

“We have been following the rule of covering employees with health insurance since five years. However, the one-time treatment is limited to RO 5,” a HR personnel of a leading supermarket chain, said.

The ministry has further said that this new rule will be implemented step by step in the next five years.

SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER

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