Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update January 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update January 2023

Health insurance profits are notable in Kuwait

Reports in December from Al-Anba daily news show that profits made from expats’ health insurance in Kuwait have risen significantly in 2022, increasing from KD87.116 million in 2020-2021 to KD100.2 million in the following fiscal year – an increase of some 15%. Over the past 5 years, the Ministry has generated an income of KD490.6 million (US$1.6 billion) from health insurance services.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health is currently looking at standardising pharmaceutical prices with neighbouring countries, in conjunction with the Federation of Drug Importers. The Minister of Health, Dr Ahmed Al-Awadi, is aiming to take this step in order to supply patients with ‘safe medicines’ at ‘reasonable prices.’ 26 medicines have been added to the prescription list, with the stipulation that these are not available to expats (who can order their own medication through their private provider). There is currently a KD5 to KD10 fee for expats who order prescription medication in public clinics and hospitals.

Health insurance payments rise in Germany

If you’re with a statutory health insurance provider in Germany, your payments are likely to go up by around 0.3% in 2023, increasing to a maximum of 1.6%. Karl Lauterbach, the Federal Health Minister, says that the increase is necessary in order to fill the deficit of around €17 billion, left by Covid-19 among other factors. Government subsidies will also be increased. The German state healthcare system is one of the best in the world, but as with other nations, it is struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic, although Lauterbach has been putting some of the blame on his predecessor for not undertaking a reform of the healthcare system.

If you’re an expat employed by a German company, this is likely to affect you, so check with your employer to find out how much your contributions from your salary are going to be.

UAE’s ‘clinic in the cloud’

New tech health start-up meta[bolic] has launched a new weight loss programme in the Emirates, aimed at providing targeted metabolic data for clients, combined with a ‘clinic in the cloud’ approach. Studies show that 7 out of 10 people in the UAE are significantly overweight – including expats. Ali Hashemi, the start-up’s co-founder, says that:

“meta[bolic]’s data analytic platform helps Zone members and their coaches identify the biological blockers that prevent the individual from losing weight. The Zone multidisciplinary team helps patients reach sustainable weight loss results over a six-month period through a combination of doctor-prescribed FDA-approved medication, wearables that provide digital biomarkers, and behavioural modification.”

So if you’re living in the UAE and losing weight has been one of your New Year’s resolutions, you may want to check out the new platform.

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China allows German expats to use German vaccines

China and Germany reached an agreement in December 2022, to permit German expats resident in China to use German Covid vaccines, namely the vaccine made by BioNTech. This will be the first non-Chinese Covid vaccine to be licensed in China, which is reversing its stringent lockdown policies and moving towards the more global approach of living with the virus.

Some epidemiologists warn that China is expecting a new wave of Covid and that its healthcare system, which is not robust, could be overwhelmed. There have been recent reports of a 70% rate of infection in Shanghai. Note that travellers coming in from China to both the UK and USA must show a negative test result. Keep an eye on the regulations if you’re returning from this part of Asia.

Mubadala’s focus on digital health

The Mubadala Investment Company is owned by the state of Abu Dhabi, although it operates internationally and manages portfolio assets in the region. Currently, it is focusing on digital health, having already taken an interest in developing healthcare – it was behind the local expansion of the Cleveland Clinic. Dr Rakesh Suri, who was involved in the latter development, says that:

“…we worked with the Department of Health and other hospitals and clinics to join a health care exchange, where medical records are shared across all of the providers. Regardless of which clinic or hospital a patient entered, we’d be immediately able to ascertain their past medical history [and] current medical condition.”

The digital health sector is estimated to expand to $4 billion across Saudi Arabia and the Emirates by 2026. Digital start-ups are encouraged. Last year, the Saudis did a deal with diabetic artificial intelligence company Digital Diagnostics, and governments in the region are said to be looking at generational companies who aim to bring the tech side of healthcare into the future. India, with a go-ahead approach to tech and an underserved patient population, has been a role model for the Middle East in terms of encouraging strategic public/private healthcare partnerships, such as data aggregation company Innovaccer, who are San Francisco based.

Portuguese healthcare system is ‘not for medical tourism.’

Expresso news has warned that the Portuguese state healthcare system is being used by temporary residents, including women from PALOP (Portuguese-speaking) countries, who are looking for maternity care before moving on with their migratory route, and by American expats seeking HIV treatment. There have been questions asked about the ease of getting an SNS number, but the claims made by the paper have been refuted by the state healthcare authorities, who say that people coming into the country to use the health system are covered by Third Payer status, which is not borne by the state.

They emphasise that “one of the lessons of the pandemic is that health is increasingly global and interdependent, so that the major health challenges require coordinated and interlinked responses among States, just as the response to individual needs requires solidarity and international cooperation.”

Brits abroad face healthcare implications

In late December, the Daily Express reported that the NHS has confirmed that Brits who have moved abroad on a permanent basis will “no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules”. Retirees will need to notify their GP practice in order to be removed from the NHS register. If this applies to you, you will need to make sure that you are covered for your healthcare needs in your host country, either by the local national healthcare system or by private provision (or both).

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