Saudi Arabia Health Insurance
The complete guide!

How does the state health insurance system work?

The Council of Co-operative Health Insurance covers public health insurance. The Ministry of Health is primarily responsible for all levels of healthcare and governs a number of primary and secondary providers, plus specialist care, for example in the form of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center and the King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital.

Public healthcare is of an excellent standard, with some world-class facilities. It is ranked 26th out of 191 countries by the WHO, ahead of most of its GCC neighbours, but also higher than many other healthcare systems worldwide. Around 4.7% of GDP is spent on healthcare.

Nonetheless, Saudi public healthcare still faces some challenges. The population is ageing, growing, and increasingly suffering from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, which are taking up a bigger role in the overall disease burden. Experts report a lack of trained healthcare professionals and a heavy reliance on overseas workers. However, the state is addressing this discrepancy with the adoption of the Vision 2030 plan, covering a wide range of sectors including healthcare, which sees a projected shift from the existing ⅓ Saudi-to-foreigner workforce ratio to ⅔ by the end of the 2020s.

Healthcare is a priority for the government, which has allocated a fund of SAR 146.5 billion for health services and social development: 15% of the government budgetary expenditure.

You should have no difficulty in finding a local pharmacist, but note that there are strict limitations on some of the medication (for example, painkillers) that you can bring into the country. Check with your local Saudi embassy for details.

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Who is eligible for state healthcare?

Only Saudi nationals are eligible for state healthcare.

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

You will not be eligible as an expat to join the state health insurance scheme.

Your employer is obliged to register you with a private scheme, with one of a number of local providers (you may opt for international cover of your own), but in practice some employers still do not do so: check carefully with your workplace. Once they have done this, you will be issued with a health insurance card.

What is covered by the state health insurance system?

The state system covers primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. 58% of Saudi hospitals are public sector. Some aspects of healthcare may be privatised in future between Public Private Partnerships: the quality of provision between the public and the private sectors does not vary greatly in terms of the standard of care, although you will find a wider range of choice in the private sector.

Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?

As a retiree in Saudi Arabia, you will not be entitled to access public healthcare and must take out private cover.

Are students covered by state medical insurance?

As an international student in Saudi Arabia, you will need to take out private cover. It is advisable to consult your educational provider to see if they have an affiliated insurance provider.

Will your family be covered by your insurance?

Your family will need to be covered by your private insurance, whether via your employer or your personal health insurance.

Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?

You will not be covered for dental care and must either pay for your treatment out of pocket, or via a dental plan.

What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?

The contribution rate for Saudi national employees is 22% of the salary. This is paid by both the employee and the employer. Your employer must also pay occupational hazards insurance, at a rate of 2%, but you should not have to make additional contributions.

Why buy private health insurance?

Expats must take out private health insurance to cover their stay in Saudi Arabia in order to be allowed into the country. You may find that health insurance is part of your employment package, but this can be basic and may not cover you for all eventualities, hence many expats choose their own cover, either as a top-up or a replacement.

You are advised to pre-register at your local private clinic, and also make sure that you carry details of your health insurance with you. Ambulance transport has recently improved, but is not always ideal, thus you may wish to check that your local hospital runs a private ambulance service.

You should have no problem finding English-speaking personnel.

Private sector provision is increasing and the government is encouraging investment. There are currently around 158 private hospitals and a number of private clinics.

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What is covered by private health insurance?

Primary and hospitalization costs are covered, plus elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery and dental implants. For instance, a dental implant will cost around SR3900 (US$1040).

Many expats also choose a medical evacuation clause in case they prefer to be treated outside the country. You may wish to look at this closely if you are female: although women’s rights have considerably improved in Saudi Arabia in recent years, you may still find that medical treatment is below the standard of care that you are accustomed to in the West, and you might to some extent feel that you are a second-class citizen. Pregnancy outside marriage, for instance, can result in imprisonment or deportation.

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 for Saudi Arabia, including:

  • AXA
  • BUPA
  • Cigna
  • Foyer Global Health
  • Pacific Prime

Glossary of health insurance terms

You should have little difficulty in finding English-speaking medical personnel.

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