Bahrain Cuts Expat Health Bill by Half

Gulf Daily News
Manama, Apr 26:
Bahrain has more than halved government health spending on foreigners in the past two years - despite soaring numbers of expats, the GDN has learned.

More than BD50 million was spent on expats' medical treatment in 2006, but this fell to just over BD20m last year, according to latest figures.

This is despite a massive increase in the number of expats living in Bahrain, which according to latest figures is nearly half of its one million population.

The figures are included in a reply by Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer to a question from MP Dr Ali Ahmed, in which he says the money was spent on treatment, medication, tests and other procedures.

A ministry official told the GDN the costs had been dramatically reduced due to several reasons, but mainly because of an increase in the amount expats have to pay for treatment at primary healthcare facilities.

"This leads to the ministry recouping around BD15m from an overall bill of around BD50m, as opposed to only BD5m earlier," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

Expats previously had to pay just BD1 for treatment at health centres including medication, but this was increased to BD2 in mid-2006 and BD3 from January 2007.

The official added that an increase in the number of private hospitals and clinics in the past two years was also responsible, since many were visited by expats.

"These are state-of-the-art facilities run by well-known names in the healthcare business and offer affordable treatment," he said.

The official said many expatriates preferred to use such facilities since they found it easy to communicate with the physicians, even if they have to pay more.

He described it as a win-win situation.

"We get to add more facilities to improve our services, the patient is happy since he is more comfortable and it means more income for the private facilities," he said.

He added the annual budget of the Health Ministry was now a little over BD100m, which translates to around 7.5 per cent of total government expenditure.

"The savings we have made will now be better utilised elsewhere," added the official.

Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Aziz Hamza had earlier been quoted as saying the BD50m it was costing the ministry to treat foreigners was more than 10 times the amount it recouped.

He said that accounted for half of the ministry's annual budget, but added the introduction of compulsory health insurance for expats this year would transfer the financial burden of their medical treatment to employers and stimulate the private sector.


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