By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: An expat couple who are both senior citizens have asked why they must pay KD 500 each for private health insurance in addition to mandatory government health insurance of KD 50 each. All residents aged 60 years and above without a degree must pay a maximum amount of KD 823 if they want to work, live or continue to stay in Kuwait.
Kuwait Times spoke to a couple who renewed their iqamas as they still wish to stay in the country. “I paid KD 1,646 in all for me and my wife’s residency. This is a large sum of money, but this is the law in Kuwait, so I closed my eyes and paid the amount. I don’t want my wife and me to be illegal,” said 65-year-old Tatay Severino yesterday.
Severino said he has spent the majority of his life in Kuwait running a small business. “My mistake was that I was not able to finish college, so I have to pay extra for my residency,” he said. The Public Authority for Manpower has mandated that expatriates aged over 60 without a university degree to pay KD 500 in annual private health insurance along with the KD 250 annual fee for the renewal of their work permits.
The insurance policy will cover the medical treatment of insured residents at private hospitals and clinics for a maximum amount of KD 10,000 per year, KD 8,000 of which is for coverage at hospitals. The insured residents are fully covered for treatment at hospitals, which includes hospital stays, cost of doctors’ consultations, surgeries and radiology services. The policy covers the treatment of chronic diseases.
The policy allocates KD 1,500 annually for treatment at outpatient clinics including medicines – at a maximum of KD 300 per year, medical examinations, one-day surgeries and others. The policy also allocates KD 500 for primary dental treatment that includes fillings, lab tests, drugs and gum treatment. According to the policy, treatment at hospitals is fully covered, but patients are required to pay 10 percent for each doctor’s visit, diagnostic tests and medicines at outpatient clinics, along with 10 percent for dental treatment.
Last week, Severino and his wife went to the residency department of the ministry of interior to renew their iqamas. They were advised to go to a private insurance company to pay the KD 500 policy. “But I don’t understand why I have to pay double insurance. I paid KD 1,007 plus an additional KD 100, also for insurance. Why two health insurances?” he asked.
Severino has been in Kuwait for 39 years, and his wife for 35 years. “Even if I don’t agree with this amount, I don’t want to be illegal, so I paid. I have stayed in Kuwait longer than in my own country (the Philippines). I love this country very much and would even like to be buried here. This law is unfair, but we need to follow it,” he conceded.
To renew their iqama, a senior citizen must go directly to the insurance company and pay KD 500, plus a service charge of KD 3.5. The renewal process can be done through a private company that processes visas (normally present outside the residency department), who take KD 5 as service charge. After paying the insurance, the next payment will be for the work permit, set by the government at KD 250, in addition to KD 50 for government health insurance.
The new law was passed in 2020 and was supposed to be implemented in Jan 2021, but was suspended due to fierce opposition by lawmakers, businesses, NGOs and individuals.