How does the state health insurance system work?

The Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has overall responsibility for public health in the country.

The not-for-profit Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) also runs frontline public healthcare, such as hospitals and polyclinics, in Qatar. This is free for nationals; expats can access the system but must pay to do so. Once you are granted residency, however, you can apply for a Hamad Health Card, which can confer significant benefits.

Qatar, like many GCC states, has a growing and ageing population. Government investment into public healthcare is a priority. The country has over 2,000 hospital beds and is increasing its level of medical personnel. New medical facilities have been opened (nine in primary care between 2016-18, plus two male health centers run by the Qatar Red Crescent), plus three new private sector hospitals and four diagnostic and treatment centers, also in 2016-18.

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Who is eligible for state healthcare?

Qatari nationals are eligible to access the public system, but as an expat your choices will be:

  • a Hamad health card if you are a resident
  • out of pocket payments in the public sector
  • out of pocket payments in the private sector
  • private health insurance

You can also use a combination of these options.

How do you apply to join the state health insurance system?

You can apply for a Hamad health card: consultations or non-emergency treatments will be subsidized if you have one of these and you can also have your prescriptions filled at a government-run pharmacy at subsidized rates.

To obtain a health card, visit your local Primary Health Care Center (PHCC) and fill out the appropriate forms. You will be issued a PHCC health file number. You will need:

  • valid QID or passport with valid residence permit
  • a passport-size photograph
  • fee of QR100 (US$27)
  • a copy of a utility bill (phone, water/electricity)
  • a housing contract that confirms your address
  • You must pay using a credit card; cash is not accepted. The health center will either issue you with your card immediately, or ask you to return within a few days to collect it.

What is covered by the state health insurance system?

Qatar has some of the best medical care in the Middle East and the state covers primary, secondary and tertiary care. There is specialist provision available.

Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?

As an expat retiree it is advisable that you take out private cover, and check your existing cover for any age-related cut offs.

Are students covered by state medical insurance?

As an international student in Qatar you will need to take out private cover. Consult your educational provider to see if they have an affiliated insurance provider.

Will your family be covered by your insurance?

Your family will be covered if they are residents. You can apply for a Hamad card for your children, for half the cost of an adult card, but you will need to supply their birth certificates and vaccination records.

Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?

Dental treatment is covered to some extent, but you will need to pay. The HMC offers specialist dental care to people of all ages through a dental services network, which is available through public healthcare facilities, ranging from primary health centers to specialist hospitals.

Hamad Dental Services primarily offers specialist dental care to patients, specifically acute care in a hospital setting.

The Primary Health Care Corporation provides general dental care in the majority of their health centers located conveniently around the country, for example:

  • endodontics
  • prosthodontics
  • orthodontics
  • periodontics
  • paediatric dentistry
  • special needs dentistry
  • oral surgery
  • oral medicine
  • orofacial pain

What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?

You will not be making contributions into state health insurance.

Why buy private health insurance?

You should check with your employer to see if private coverage is part of your employment package and if so, if it offers more than basic care. You may opt for private insurance of your own as a top-up.

Around ⅔ of Qatari hospitals are privately run in addition to a number of polyclinics, and you will find plenty of provision across the country.

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What is covered by private health insurance?

Private health insurance covers primary and hospitalization care, plus elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery and dental implants.

Many expats opt for private cover with a medical evacuation clause, in case they prefer to be treated outside the country.

How much does private health insurance cost?

This will depend on factors such as your age and any pre-existing conditions, and the kind of package you opt for (obviously, a more expensive insurance package will give you more a extensive range of treatment and facilities). As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance it becomes very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required.

However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40 year old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. Were coverage to be expanded to include the US then the premium could increase to almost double that amount.

Which companies offer private health insurance?

Many of the big international providers offer cover, including:

  • Allianz
  • AXA
  • BUPA Global
  • Cigna

Glossary of health insurance terms

Many medical personnel have trained abroad and you should have little difficulty in finding English-speaking personnel.

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